MORGANTOWN — In what could be a shootout for the Big 12’s cellar, Texas Tech recently found some more ammunition.
It comes in the form of 6-foot-11 center Fardaws Aimaq, who will play in just his fourth game of the season when Texas Tech hosts WVU at 7 p.m. Wednesday, but his debut was long awaited.
“I’m still a little rusty, but it’s going to come back,” Aimaq said after his season debut against Texas on Jan. 14, in which he had 12 points and five rebounds in 29 minutes.
We take you back to last spring, when Aimaq became the biggest name in the transfer portal before signing with the Red Raiders (10-9, 0-7 Big 12) in May.
Last season at Utah Valley, he averaged 18.9 points and 13.6 rebounds per game and recorded 27 double-doubles, including three 20-20 games.
His addition was a major reason why Texas Tech was nationally ranked in the preseason, except he broke a bone in his foot over the summer and is just now getting into the swing of things.
In three games, Aimaq is playing 24 minutes and averaging 10 points and 6.7 rebounds per game.
But his return gives Texas Tech a major size advantage against just about anyone in the Big 12.
“They look like we have in the past in playing two bigs at the same time,” said WVU assistant Josh Eilert, who filled in for head coach Bob Huggins on a Zoom call Tuesday. “It really gives people problems on the rebounding end.”
Texas Tech’s big lineup also includes 6-11 forward Daniel Batcho and 6-8 forward Kevin Obanor, who leads the team in scoring at 14.7 points and also averages 6.3 rebounds per game.
Eilert is in charge of the scouting report for the Mountaineers (11-8, 1-6), and said the key to dealing with the Red Raiders’ size is with crisp ball movement.
“I told our team (Monday) night, more than anytime ever, we’re really going to have to move the ball,” Eilert said. “If we don’t move the ball from side to side and really pass it and share it, we’re going to struggle.
“If we get in the mode where guys get selfish and want to go one-on-one, they’re going to run guys at you.”
Both teams are desperate for a win. Texas Tech’s seven conference losses have come by an average of 9.6 points per game, but outside of a 34-point loss against Iowa State, the Red Raiders have been in a lot of one- or two-possession games.
The same can be said for WVU, which has lost its six league games by an average of six points.
“I want to make sure we’re doing the things that we need to do to be successful and for our players to be successful,” Eilert said. “I try to be a positive influence to them and give them a positive message and hope. We’re still right there. I keep telling our guys that. We’re No. 30 in the NET. There’s a lot of things that can go our way if we can get this thing turned.”
Other things to keep an eye on today:
Home sweet home
Since the start of the 2021-22 season, Texas Tech is 26-3 playing inside the United Supermarkets Arena, including an 8-3 mark this season.
And while Texas Tech has yet to win a Big 12 game this season, the Red Raiders are still second in the conference in home attendance, averaging 13,366 per game.
WVU is 5-5 all-time in the arena.
“The last two or three years (former coach) Chris Beard really got that environment going,” Eilert said. “They really show up and they’re locked in. That student section is really good. I told our guys that’s its probably going to be the second-best environment we’ve played in so far. They still pack that place, regardless of what they’ve done record-wise.”
Keep an eye on the young kid
Texas Tech freshman guard Pop Isaacs was a four-star recruit coming out of Coronado (Las Vegas) High School.
In the team’s first 12 nonconference games, he scored in double figures six times.
That’s changed since the start of Big 12 play, where he’s scored in double figures in the six games he’s played — he missed one game with a concussion — including a 23-point effort against Texas.
In Big 12 play, Isaacs is averaging 10 3-point attempts per game.
“He’s 100% got the green light,” Eilert said. “He’ll take a lot of shots out of their offense. He can pull it from any form or fashion in terms of in their offense. He’s got the ultimate green light. Pop is the one you’ll never know when he’ll (shoot) it.”
WVU at TEXAS TECH
WHEN: 7 p.m. Wednesday
WHERE: United Supermarkets Arena, Lubbock, Texas
TV: ESPNU (Comcast 174, HD 853; DirecTV 208; DISH 141)
RADIO: 100.9 JACK-FM