Mountaineers look to rebuild postseason resume with win over No. 14 Red Raiders
by: Sam Coniglio
When West Virginia lines up against No. 14 Texas Tech on Saturday, it will be searching for its first win in over three-and-a-half weeks.
The Mountaineers have faced a gauntlet in that span, taking six losses in six games, four of which have come against ranked opponents. The Red Raiders are yet another ranked foe that stand in front of WVU, which is desperately looking for a win when they square off at 2 p.m. ET on ESPN.
WVU and Texas Tech are already familiar with one another, having faced on Jan. 22 in Lubbock. The Red Raiders took a decisive 78-65 victory at their United Supermarkets Arena, which has proven to be one of the more formidable venues in college hoops this season. They have taken advantage, winning all 14 games on their home court to this point.
Things have gone differently for Texas Tech on the road, however. It has played five true road games this season, winning just one so far.
The Mountaineers need to get back in the win column after their skid as their postseason hopes are slipping away. Most projections for March put them right on the bubble with 10 games remaining in the regular season. Luckily, nine of those games — including Saturday’s clash with Texas Tech — would currently count as quadrant one wins, or the ones truly needed to build a tournament resume.
Here are the biggest storylines headed into this contest:
Building an offense without its scorer
As of Friday, the status of WVU leading scorer Taz Sherman is up in the air as he undergoes concussion protocol after sustaining an injury on Monday at Baylor.
The best case scenario for the Mountaineers is that Sherman gets cleared before game time on Saturday and he is back to 100 percent. His absence, however, is a very real possibility.
If the latter came to be, WVU would play its second game without Sherman as he missed the conference opener with COVID-19. Jalen Bridges stepped up in his absence, leading WVU with 19 points.
After that game, though, it took quite a bit of time to get Sherman back to his early-season self. WVU got plenty of Mountaineers to step up in that time, including Bridges, Sean McNeil and Malik Curry.
“You’ve gotta work with the guys that you have there, and get those guys as ready as you possibly can,” Huggins said.
Getting back on the glass
If there was one major stat that defined WVU’s loss to Texas Tech in January, it’s the rebounding margin. Texas Tech out-rebounded the Mountaineers 39-29, while grabbing 17 boards on the offensive glass.
For WVU, this wasn’t a one-time deal. The same issues surfaced against Baylor on Monday, when the Mountaineers lost the rebounding battle to the Bears by the same margin, and gave up just as many offensive rebounds. Many of those came at critical junctures in the game, allowing the Bears to score game-sealing baskets in the final minutes.
In fact, the Mountaineers rank at or near the bottom in the Big 12 in almost every rebounding category to this point.
“Well, the reason we are in the shape that we are is because we didn’t rebound it, and because we threw the ball to the other team,” “You take those two things away, we’d have been pretty good. But you can’t throw the ball to the other team 10 times and you certainly can’t give up an enormous amount of offensive rebounds.”
Navigating the Red Raider depth
Texas Tech has climbed the rankings this season with a true team effort, which makes them one of the most formidable opponents in the Big 12. Five Red Raiders average double-digit scoring, leading an offense that can attack opponents in several different ways.
On Jan. 22, 6-6 guard Terrence Shannon Jr. was the man that took the lead for Texas Tech against West Virginia, scoring 23 points to pace all scorers in the game. In the three games since, however, three different players have led the offense, giving Mark Adams plenty of tools to scare opposing defenses.
That doesn’t faze Huggins, as to him, it’s just another game in the difficult Big 12 Conference.
“That’s pretty much what happens in our league,” Huggins said. “I mean, you can’t put more guys on the floor that can score than what Baylor does, and we were fine there until the end.”
No. 14 Texas Tech at West Virginia game information
West Virginia and Texas Tech tip-off at 2 p.m. ET on ESPN at the WVU Coliseum. Saturday, of course, starts with an all-new episode of The Bob Huggins Show, which airs at 9 a.m. ET on Nexstar stations across West Virginia. Mountaineer GameDay, the most fun pregame show in West Virginia, then starts on the same stations at 10 a.m. ET.
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