The last time West Virginia faced Texas Tech spelled heartbreak for the Red Raiders — but they’ll get their shot at redemption against the Mountaineers on their home court Tuesday night at 9 p.m. ET on ESPN.
That contest was one of the most exciting of the 14th-ranked Mountaineers’ schedule so far. A second-half battle between WVU’s Miles McBride and TTU’s Mac McClung gave way to a game-winning lay-in from McBride with under six seconds to go, while McClung was unable to convert on his last-second look. Before all that, however, the duo wowed as it combined for 54 points – 30 for the Red Raider, and 24 for the Mountaineer.
West Virginia (13-5, 6-3 Big 12) has been up-and-down since the thriller in Morgantown, with struggles on defense leading to high-scoring and close games. McBride seemed to get the squad back on its proverbial horse on Saturday, when he scored a career-high 31-points as WVU blasted past Kansas.
“We got it early on in the season, and then we just kind of tailed off,” said WVU coach Bob Huggins. “It was kind of a — what would be the right word — rebirth?”
That could be the right word, especially because the most recent victory was dubbed the team’s best defensive game of the season by Huggins. WVU ramped up the pressure and forced 18 turnovers, then generating 26 points from them.
The Red Raiders (14-5, 6-4 Big 12) recovered from the loss with three straight wins. The most notable was the squad’s low-scoring affair against No. 9 Oklahoma, in which McClung was held to just six points — his lowest total in the calendar year.
They’ve been successful because McClung is far from the only threat on the team. Terrence Shannon, Jr. and Kevin McCullars are a pair of 6-6 guards that average double-figures, giving the team a versatility that is difficult to defend.
“They have so many people who are kind of the same, they’re all 6-4, 6-5, they’re all strong, all can play inside and out,” Huggins said. “They bother you with length.”
West Virginia does have a pretty solid counter to that in big man Derek Culver, the Big 12’s leading rebounder. He’s had a strong stretch of form since the first clash, averaging 20 points and 11 rebounds in those three games.
This game will be big for the Big 12 standings. With a 6-4 conference record, Texas Tech is just a half-game behind West Virginia’s 6-3 tally. A win for WVU would obviously solidify their second-place standing, while a loss would allow the Red Raiders to jump them behind Baylor. A WVU loss would also slip them behind 7-4 Oklahoma, effectively slotting them in fourth.
Action gets underway at 9 p.m. ET on ESPN.