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No. 12 West Virginia looks to close first sweep at Texas Tech

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A jam-packed Wednesday night of Big 12 basketball gets started in Lubbock as the 12th-ranked West Virginia Mountaineers face the Texas Tech Red Raiders at 8 p.m.

The Mountaineers are on a two-game winning streak after easily defeating Texas and Missouri at home, where they have an undefeated 10-0 mark. Their three losses, though, have come on the road, with their most recent one coming at the hands of a starving Kansas State team looking for their first conference win.

“We’re in the same situation, basically, we were in at Kansas State,” said West Virginia coach Bob Huggins. “We’re playing a desperate team, and a desperate team with a sell-out crowd, and we’re a young group. We haven’t been through that a lot.”

Conversely, the Red Raiders are on a two-game losing streak after taking losses to TCU and Kentucky. Couple that with the fact that they consequently fell out of the AP Top 25 after taking a 66-54 defeat from the Mountaineers in Morgantown, and Chris Beard’s team is similarly starving for a victory.

The second leg of the season series will head to United Supermarkets Arena, where Texas Tech has been much more comfortable with a 9-2 record this year.

Scouting the Raiders

This Texas Tech season has been the tale of two Red Raider teams. They have a strong offense that averages 72.74 points per game and is led by Jahmi’us Ramsey, the eighth-leading scorer in the Big 12. When it’s on, they are likely to win, as they are 12-2 when they score 62 points or more.

When it’s not clicking for them, though, it’s an entirely different story. As is what happened in Morgantown, TTU is winless when they can’t hit that 62-point mark, already with three conference games in which they’ve scored in the 50s.

But, as Bob Huggins says, such is life in the Big 12.

“They’ve played a couple teams they were supposed to beat and they’ve played a couple teams that are really hard to beat,” he said. “That’s this league. That’s what happens in this league.”

The difficulty of conference play has also hit some Red Raiders individually, especially their newcomers. Freshman guard Jahmi’us Ramsey still leads the team in scoring, but his per-game average has taken a 2.5-point dip since they’ve started playing Big 12 opponents, and he’s made just 37.2 percent of his shots (down from 50 percent before conference play).

Mounties take third road trip

As they’ve shown so far this season, the Mountaineers are still very youthful, which Bob Huggins says makes it difficult to play those “desperate” teams similar to their next opponent.

Huggins recounted an instance from his Cincinnati days in which his Bearcats lost a close game to Indiana, after which Bob Knight had a brief reassurance for the young coach:

“[Knight] said, ‘This wasn’t fair to your kids….We’re used to this. We’re used to playing in front of sell-out crowds, we’re used to being everybody’s big game. Your guys weren’t used to having a game this big. It’s not their fault, they’ll grow into it,'” Huggins recalled.

Huggins says he was a bit confused by the comment, even calling it “asinine” to say such a thing to a guy who just lost. It took time, though, and eventually, his Bearcats became one of the nation’s teams to beat.

“No matter where we went, we were everybody’s circled game of the year,” he said. “And that’s where we’ve got to get to, and we’ve got to get to the fact that, hey, this is it, we’ve got to rise to the occasion, and that’s where we are right now.”

There is no doubt that the Mountaineers have the chance to be a great team, with a 2-1 record against ranked opponents (including their victory over then-No. 22 Texas Tech). They also have an abundance of talented players who can take games over in various ways, whether it’s Miles McBride’s 22-points in the first WVU/TTU contest or Oscar Tshiebwe sniffing a double-double every time he hits the floor.

In each of their losses, however, there are three distinct similarities: being on the road, high turnover numbers (they have a combined turnover margin of -36 in their defeats) and poor free throw shooting (they make just 51.8 percent of their free throw shooting).

How to watch

The matchup will be shown on ESPN+, and will tip off at 8 p.m. ET.

Tony Caridi and Jay Jacobs will have the radio call on the Mountaineer Sports Network by Learfield IMG, and West Virginia Illustrated will have live coverage on both social media and WVIllustrated.com.

Be sure to follow us on social media for live updates as Anjelica Trinone will be at the arena. We will also have our live game log on WVIllustrated.com, so you won’t miss a moment.

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