LUBBOCK, Texas — Texas Tech had appeared to put its issues winning close games behind it with tight triumphs against LSU and Oklahoma, but the dilemma reared its ugly head again in Tuesday night’s 82-71 loss to West Virginia.
A Terrence Shannon Jr. 3-pointer brought the Red Raiders within two points with 1:53 remaining, but two fouls on Mac McClung sandwiched around a missed jumper bought the Mountaineers a 6-point lead with just more than a minute remaining, enough to close out Texas Tech. Technical fouls on Chris Beard, leading to an ejection, padded the lead further.
West Virginia shot 39 free throws in the game to Texas Tech’s 20. In a tight game featuring two good defenses, points from the charity stripe were extremely valuable.
McClung topped the Red Raiders in points with 17, but Texas Tech, in what’s becoming a trend, did not have a second player step up with high-volume scoring. Shannon was second in points with 13, but shot it inefficiently.
No other Red Raider took more than six shots, and players not named McClung shot 2-12 from 3.
On the other end, West Virginia’s Miles McBride and Sean McNeil made tough shots to keep the Mountaineers ahead for most of the contest. The two guards combined for 46 points, led by McNeil’s 26.
West Virginia took a lead early in the game, thanks in part to outstanding shot making by McNeil. The sophomore guard sank several difficult jump shots to give the Mountaineers an early 18-10 advantage.
Texas Tech followed that with a 9-0 run, finally stifling the Mountaineers’ offense for a stretch. However, the Red Raiders never took a substantial lead.
Shannon was never able to get going. He missed all six of his shots in the first half, including a pair of air balled jumpshots. Shannon also tried a behind-the-back pass to Mac McClung that resulted in a turnover.
Fueled by Red Raider turnovers like that one, WVU built a 40-34 lead going into halftime.
Shannon did get to the free throw line nine times, and flew in for a thunderous put-back dunk in the second half, but finished the game 3-14 shooting with four turnovers.
When the two teams first met in Morgantown, Texas Tech limited West Virginia’s star center Derek Culver, so much that Bob Huggins only played him 18 minutes.
Culver’s minutes were limited again to 25 Tuesday, this time because of foul trouble. He picked up his second, third and fourth fouls early in the second half before Huggins yanked him from the game.
His absence was felt on the glass, but it allowed Huggins to spread the floor and put more ball handlers in the game. Culver re-entered with about five minutes left and made a critical and-one down the stretch.
McBride, who led the charge as the Mountaineers stormed back from a late deficit to beat Texas Tech in Morgantown, scored 18 second half points Tuesday. McBride, one of the best players in the Big 12 made big shots and handled Beard’s late-game double teams admirably.
Texas Tech’s effort and talent gives the Red Raiders a chance to win just about every game they play in. But the team’s flaws seem to crop up at the worst time, leading to crunch time losses. The wins against LSU and Oklahoma are encouraging, and Texas Tech will have to regain that form if it wants to make a deep NCAA Tournament run.