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Texas Tech survives scare against West Virginia in the Big 12 opener

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The Red Raiders won for the first time in program history in Morgantown in an ugly game

NCAA Basketball: Texas Tech at West Virginia Ben Queen-USA TODAY Sports

In a game that featured 50 foul calls, it seemed ironic that the final result would be influenced by a controversial no call with only five seconds remaining. Down 61-59 with five seconds remaining in the game, Texas Tech nearly had disaster strike when superstar Jarrett Culver collided with James “Beetle” Bolden off ball on an inbound play. Fortunately, the play was not called as a foul on either player, and Davide Moretti was subsequently intentionally fouled. Bob Huggins was visibly upset, the West Virginia faithful were heated, and Red Raider players were ready to celebrate a tough, gritty win. Ultimately, the scoreboard would show a Tech win by the score of 62-59, however given the circumstances the win felt just as sweet as a 20 point blowout.

NCAA Basketball: Texas Tech at West Virginia Ben Queen-USA TODAY Sports

After jumping out to an early 6-3 lead, Tech would be outscored 19-8 over a ten minute period. Trailing 22-14 and with Jarrett Culver on the bench with zero points and three fouls, it was a tough situation for the Red Raiders to be in. In the last four minutes of the first half, Tech would close the game to 22-20 off buckets from Matt Mooney and Brandone Francis. At the half the Red Raiders had no player with more than two field goals.

After the half Chris Beard’s squad would continue their run, stretching the run to 17-0 and the lead to nine. Eventually, the aforementioned fouls would come into play, as Tariq Owens would foul out while leading with around twelve minutes left, while both Jarrett Culver and Norense Odiase picked up questionable fourth fouls. This meant that Tech rolled with a lineup of Kyler Edwards, Davide Moretti, Brandone Francis, Matt Mooney, and Deshawn Corprew. While the lineup had initial success, it was quickly exposed as West Virginia began forcing the ball inside on offense. After seeing the lead the team once had evaporate, Chris Beard decided to bring Odiase and Culver back. West Virginia had been playing a 3-2 zone look with a “triangle” look defensively, however with Odiase back in and Culver back running the offense the Mountaineers were forced to run more man-to-man looks. This allowed Culver to get going on drives, as he scored 10 points in the paint over the course of the second half.

Odiase would eventually foul out with around two minutes left, and West Virginia briefly re-gained the lead at 54-52, however a deep three by Davide Moretti put the Red Raiders back on top for the final time in the game. Culver would extend the lead to 59-54, and some late possession defensive miscues (including a strange foul call on Kyler Edwards with five seconds left) gave West Virginia a chance to set up pressure on the final inbound down only two points (61-59). What followed was the controversial no-call, and then Davide Moretti split his free throws to put Tech up three. The last second heave by the Mountaineers was off, and the Red Raiders finally finished the job in Morgantown after losing all six previous road games against WVU.

Culver led the team with 18 points, all of which came in the second half. He only played sparingly in the first half after three early fouls. Matt Mooney would add 14 points, while Davide Moretti had what was potentially his best game in a Texas Tech uniform to date. He scored an efficient twelve points, had three steels, and committed no turnovers or fouls.

Both teams committed 25 fouls, and the Red Raiders had three players foul out, as Tariq Owens, Norense Odiase, and Kyler Edwards all ended their respective games with five fouls. Jarrett Culver picked up four fouls himself, however Beard’s ability to manage foul troubles with a zone defense mitigated the risk of Culver playing. In total, 56 free throws were shot in the game, the most of any Tech game this season.

NCAA Basketball: Texas Tech at West Virginia Ben Queen-USA TODAY Sports

Areas of Success:

  • The Red Raiders forced 22 turnovers, and scored 20 points off those turnovers. 12 steals allowed for many transition opportunities.
  • Shooting 75% from the free throw line was good enough for the team to win tonight. Keeping the free throw % over 70 could be vital to future success.
  • Jarrett Culver scored 18 points in the second half on only eight shots. His efficiency is unparalleled within the Big 12 conference right now.

Areas of Weakness:

  • 3-18 on three point attempts really limited Tech on the offensive end. Mooney, Moretti, Edwards, and Francis all missed relatively easy looks from the perimeter. The lack of shooting could be cause for concern later in Big 12 play.
  • Only five assists over the entire game for the Red Raiders. As we’ve seen before: Iso ball is rarely sustainable in March. The motion offense is not designed to succeed thorugh isolations.
  • On a lesser note: Texas Tech did get out-rebounded by 10 (41-31). While that may sound concerning, only getting 31 combined minutes from Odiase and Owens made life a lot more difficult on the boards.

Up next:

NCAA Basketball: Texas at Kansas State Scott Sewell-USA TODAY Sports

Texas Tech heads back to Lubbock to face Kansas State, who lost their Big 12 opener to Texas, 67-47 in Manhattan. The Red Raiders won both meetings by double digits last year.