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No. 8 Texas Tech seeks redemption against No. 2 West Virginia

The Red Raiders host the Mountaineers in a big time, Big 12 throw-down.

No. 8 Texas Tech (14-2, 3-1) returns to the United Supermarkets Arena Saturday as they host No. 2 West Virginia (15-1, 4-0). The game is the first ever contest at the USA between two top 10 teams. Tip-off is scheduled for 1:00 p.m.

The Red Raiders are fresh off of a 65-75 loss at No. 9 Oklahoma. It was their first Big 12 loss of the year. West Virginia outlasted Baylor, 57-54, in Waco last Tuesday and remained the only unbeaten team in Big 12 play.

This game features two top notch defensive teams giving up less than 65 points per game. Tech is ranked fifth nationally in scoring defense giving up an average of 60.2 points per game while West Virginia ranks 32nd at 64.9.

These two also know how to score as West Virginia is 38th and Tech is 64th in scoring offense out of 351 DI teams. The teams are evenly matched in every statistical category as you can see by the graphic below. Let’s take a closer look at the Mountaineers.

West Virginia Mountaineers

For West Virginia, it all starts with the big man, head coach Bob Huggins. Huggins is in his eleventh year as the coach of the Mountaineers and is 244-120 overall.

The unquestioned team leader on the floor is 6’2” senior guard Jevon Carter. Carter leads the team in per game average in minutes (34), points (16), and assists (6.75). He also leads the team with 58 steals and is second in rebounds with 88.

He was named 2016-17 Defensive Player of the Year by NABC, Lefty Driesell, and the Big 12 Conference. He was also named to the All-Big 12 Conference Second Team.

Carter is not just a defensive player, he is an all-around guard. Along with dishing out the assists, Carter also shoots at a clip of 41 percent from the field along with 39 percent from three point range. He also attacks the basket and draws the fouls. He leads the team from the line converting 84 percent of his 81 attempts.

Carter’s running mate is 6’3” senior guard, Daxter Miles, Jr. Miles ranks second on the team per game in minutes (29.5), points (13), assists (57), and steals (27). He is a penetrating and mid-range scorer who shoots 46 percent from the field. However, he’s only 28 and 68 percent from beyond the arc and at the free throw line respectively.

Controlling the middle is the responsibility of 6’8” sophomore forward Sagaba Konate. Konate leads the team in rebounds and blocks at 113 and 47 respectively. He also shoots a solid 50 percent from the field and 75 percent from the line. He also plays clean by averaging less than three fouls per game.

Rounding out the starting five should be a pair of 6’8” sophomore forwards in Lamont West and Wesley Harris. West is third on the team per game in minutes (27) and scoring (12) while Harris contributes six points per game in 21 minutes.

The Mountaineers also have four worker bees who all average double digit minutes and all have played in every game. This group of four is led by six foot sophomore guard James Bolden.

Bolden averages 18 minutes per game off the bench while scoring an average of 10 per game which is fourth highest on the team. He also sits third on the team with 21 assists and 20 steals.

Those nine players will see the floor during the game. Coach Huggins may or may not use two other spot players to take the total to 11 players. The thing that sticks out about the West Virginia players is size. They are not very tall but they are physical and athletic.

This game, like most games West Virginia is involved, is almost certainly going to come down to pressure. How well can you handle the defensive pressure? The Mountaineers force 20 turnovers per game on average and score 23 points per game off turnovers. About 28 percent of their points per game production comes by turnover. Tech has managed to limit their own turnovers to about 12 per game this year. Both teams are in the top 13 nationally in turnover margin.

Both of these teams rely heavily on relatively young players. How well will these young guns handle the pressure? The environment? The overall intensity of what is sure to be a struggle of a game? The two teams are going to match-up and go chest to chest. Not allowing an easy trip down the court, let alone an easy shot.

The two games last year were close and this is a much better Tech team this year. I like the match-ups in which the Red Raiders can compete with fundamentals and athleticism. This is such a match-up. Add on screaming Red Raiders and I like the home team in this one. Prediction: Tech 71, West Virginia 64