West Virginia men’s basketball earned its season sweep over Texas Tech after defeating the Red Raiders in a battle in Lubbock, 82-71.
The Mountaineers were stricken with foul trouble throughout the game, and were forced to rely on their guards for much of the second half. This was no problem, however, as Sean McNeil paced West Virginia with a career-high 26 points, while Miles McBride added another 20.
“I’m as pleased as I can be with how we played,” said WVU coach Bob Huggins.
The battle started right at the opening tip-off, as the lead never went out of single digits in favor of either team. WVU maintained the lead for most of the period, however, led by the strong play of McNeil and a big half from Derek Culver.
The fouls came early for both teams. Three Mountaineers — McBride, Gabe Osabuohien and Jalen Bridges — all entered the halftime break with two fouls, while four Red Raiders — Mac McClung, Marcus Santos-Silva, Kevin McCullar and Clarence Nadolny — would as well.
The battle resumed after halftime as McBride and McNeil tried to build on WVU’s six-point lead, but the Red Raiders kept answering. Their job became even tougher when, just five minutes into the half, Derek Culver picked up his fourth foul, forcing Bob Huggins to play a very small lineup. This was made worse when Osabuohien — Huggins’s only other true game-ready big man — was charged with his fourth.
At several points, redshirt freshman Jalen Bridges, who stands 6-7, was WVU’s biggest guy on the floor. That didn’t seem to bother the Mountaineers, however, as they held on to their lead into the final minutes.
“I’m just trying to win, man,” Huggins said. “I’m trying to put the best people we have available out there to do what they can do, and that’s what we need them to do.
This wasn’t easy. Texas Tech began to really threaten that lead as they heated up in the middle part of the second half making six straight buckets to get a one-point edge with 8:26 remaining. This was quickly extinguished with a three-pointer from McBride, putting WVU back in front — where they would stay.
Just as TTU was hot for a stretch, they ended ice cold, making just two of its last 12 field goals. WVU used this cold streak to build its lead with free throws, as McBride eventually put the Mountaineers up double-digits with 23 seconds left to seal the win.
In total, 49 fouls were called in the game — 29 against Texas Tech and 20 against West Virginia. This seemed to bother Texas Tech coach Chris Beard, who gave the officials a piece of his mind in the final minute, earning a double technical in the process.
“We started out, we didn’t do a really good job. We didn’t block out, we gave them too many second shots, we gave them too many points in the paint,” Huggins said. “But I think as the game wore on, I thought we got better and better and better.”
McClung, who was on fire in the first meeting between the two teams, was kept relatively quiet in this contest. Although he started the second half in double-digits, he finished with 17 points in the game before fouling out in the final minutes. He was one of just three Red Raiders in double-digits, including Terrence Shannon Jr. and Kyler Edwards.
Much of McNeil’s scoring came from the three ball — he was on fire with a 5-for-7 mark from deep, with an 8-for-11 clip overall.
“The big thing is just seeing the shot go in,” he said. “But really, it’s just kind of feel. I felt really good, my body felt really good, I was just excited to play. We knew this was a big game for us on the road, especially after the game we had with them back at our place so we really wanted to come here and get this win.”
Culver also scored double digits for West Virginia, adding 15 points and grabbing eight rebounds.
WVU’s win puts the Mountaineers squarely in second place in the Big 12 standings with a 7-3 record, while improving their overall mark to 14-5. Texas Tech falls to 14-6 overall and 6-5 in the conference.