West Virginia looks to end skid at Texas Tech

LUBBOCK, Texas — Good day from Big Monday, where West Virginia makes its first official appearance of the season on ESPN’s hoops brainchild to start the week. Unlike so many other Big 12 games this season, it is the Mountaineers (10-12, 2-7 Big 12) who possibly have the momentum heading into the matchup following its 79-71 victory against Oklahoma, while No. 16 Texas Tech (17-5, 5-4) is coming off a 79-63 loss at Kansas that saw the Red Raiders trail by 20 at the half. Texas Tech has lost four of its last six, but three of those have been on the road.

Playing at United Supermarkets Arena, the Red Raiders are a different team. They’re 12-1 and hold opponents to just 53 points per game in Lubbock. The Mountaineers have not had much success here recently, either. WVU has lost two straight here, including last season’s 72-71 loss that came right after the Mountaineers had reached No. 2 in the nation in the game that saw Esa Ahmad return from his 16-game NCAA suspension.

But, just maybe the Mountaineers can carry over their momentum from beating the Sooners, a game that saw four WVU players finish in double figures, which hasn’t happened since losing to Oklahoma State on Jan. 12.

Beetle Bolden (ankle) and Sagaba Konate (knee) will be out of the lineup again for the Mountaineers, who would climb out of the Big 12 cellar with a victory.

Here’s what you need to know:

TV: ESPN for the 9 p.m. tip-off. BETTING LINE: Texas Tech is favored by 12.

THREE GOOD QUESTIONS

Just how good is Texas Tech’s defense? The Red Raiders are No. 1 in the Big 12 in scoring defense (57.8 ppg) field-goal percentage defense (36.6 percent) and 3-point field-goal percentage defense (27.5 percent). That’s pretty good, but pace of play also comes into play. Only TCU has allowed less 3-point attempts in the league than Texas Tech, which is not a wide-open fast-paced team. It’s a matter of how aggressive the Mountaineers will be on the offensive end. In the first meeting of the season, West Virginia was 5 of 19 from three and out-rebounded Texas Tech, 41-31. The problem was 22 turnovers and finishing 18 of 32 from the foul line. If it becomes a possession-to-possession type of game, WVU has to find a way to get the ball inside and not turn the ball over. If that happens, then a door of opportunity opens.

What does WVU do with its guards? This has been the question for most of the season. Just when you think things are settling in, Brandon Knapper scores 25 against the Sooners. By now, you’d hope that Jermaine Haley or Jordan McCabe would have established some consistency at point guard, but it hasn’t really happened. With Bolden out, Harler becomes the most experienced guard on the roster, but he, too, has been inconsistent. Huggins went with the double point-guard look with Haley and McCabe in the last game, but maybe Knapper gets the nod tonight. Truth is, there is no way to predict which guard is going to have a good game or if any of them will.

Does West Virginia’s new 3-2 zone have any chance of sticking? Maybe not in this one, because Texas Tech does have a beat inside with senior Norense Odiase, and if Derek Culver is up on the perimeter, Odiase could have free will inside. This is likely more of a matchup game, with West Virginia’s Wes Harris guarding Jarrett Culver, who can still make a run at Big 12 Player of the Year with a strong finish. Culver was 6 of 8 shooting and scored 18 in Morgantown earlier this season, but was in foul trouble. He came through late in the second half.

 

 

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