Men's Basketball, WVU Sports

Wilson, Okonkwo lead WVU past Texas Tech to end Big 12 road losing streak

MORGANTOWN — Seth Wilson was the star of the game, while James Okonkwo had the highlight-reel play.

Both came off West Virginia’s bench Wednesday, which is an important part of the tale that was the Mountaineers’ 76-61 victory over Texas Tech in front of 11,802 fans inside the United Supermarkets Arena.

The victory ended a 12-game Big 12 road losing streak for WVU (12-8, 2-6 Big 12), which won maybe one of the more unique games of the season.


It began with the Red Raiders (10-10, 0-8) taking an early 10-2 lead over the first five minutes of the game.

In that span, WVU’s starters shot just 1 of 7 from the floor and committed more turnovers (5) than they scored points.

“Our starters just didn’t have it,” WVU head coach Bob Huggins said in his radio postgame show. “They just didn’t have any pop.”

In came a brand new five, which included Wilson.

In the 19 minutes he played, Wilson was a star all over the floor.

He banked in two 3-pointers, a sign of how things went for him on this night.

He added three more threes for a career-high 15 points, and then came away with two plays that added crucial possessions.

The first came with 9:46 remaining in the second half. With WVU holding on to a 49-47 lead, it was Wilson who ran down a loose ball in front of the WVU bench and saved it to teammate Erik Stevenson.

Stevenson busted a 3-pointer — WVU had 10 3-pointers and just nine two-pointers in this one — that gave the Mountaineers a 52-47 advantage.

Moments later, Wilson came up with a long offensive rebound and immediately found Okonkwo in the paint for an and-one three-point play.

It was a nice bucket for Okonkwo, but far from his play of the game.

That came with 6:22 remaining, when Texas Tech forward Daniel Batcho (he’s 6-foot-11) caught a pass ahead of the 6-8 Okonkwo and thought he had an easy dunk.

Except Okonkwo came from behind — and with two hands — basically caught Batcho’s dunk attempt at the rim and took the ball away from him.

It was an Okonk-no.

“I have said and said that James is really talented,” Huggins said. “He’s got all kinds of potential. It’s just a matter of us continuing to work with him and him continuing to let us work with him. I think he’s got a great basketball future ahead of him.”

For added measure, Okonkwo added a career-high 10 rebounds on a night when WVU out-rebounded the Red Raiders 44-27.

WVU’s bench ended up being the difference, scoring 50 of the 76 points.

Joe Toussaint also came off the bench to fill in for a banged-up Kedrian Johnson (ankle). He scored a game-high 22 points and added six rebounds of his own.

“We had great help from our bench,” Huggins said. “I thought our bench was really good. Joe came in and did a terrific job for us.”

Now, if all of this sounds like a work of art, this game was far from it.

Instead, it was played very much like one would expect from two desperate teams at the bottom of the Big 12 standings.

A combined 48 fouls were called and both teams combined for 58 free-throw attempts.

Neither team shot better than 39% from the field, but that didn’t stop them from jacking up shots from long range.

WVU took 35 3-pointers — the most it’s taken in any Big 12 game since joining the conference — and Texas Tech added 20 more.

“The way they were playing, they were playing really physical, and we couldn’t get it close,” Huggins said. “When we did, they were double-teaming us, at times triple-teaming us, so we wanted to spread them out.”

WVU turned the ball over 19 times, some of them ending up with the ball in the crowd after a pass went to no one.

Texas Tech, which has lost eight straight, saw its top freshman guard Pop Isaacs leave the game with an ankle injury with 15:24 remaining in the game after he had been held to a season-low two points.

The Red Raiders were also whistled for two technical fouls, which led the way for Stevenson to have his best game since the start of Big 12 play.

He finished with 16 points, including going 9 of 11 from the foul line, including the four technical-foul shots.

TWEET @bigjax3211