MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – Deniz Kilicli
’s career-high 25 points helped West Virginia defeat Texas Tech 66-64 Saturday afternoon in Big 12 Conference men’s basketball action at the WVU Coliseum in Morgantown.
West Virginia, which rolled to a 16-point victory over the Red Raiders on the road earlier this month, couldn’t put Tech away today because it couldn’t make its free throws or hang on to the basketball.
The Mountaineers missed 17 free throws, seven by Kilicli, and committed 18 turnovers that enabled Texas Tech to hang around in a game it looked like West Virginia had control of.
“I can’t imagine there is anyone who shoots more free throws than we do,” said West Virginia coach Bob Huggins. “We don’t shoot a hundred a day, we make a hundred a day.
“With some of these guys, if they make 1 of 2 you should probably be happy,” Huggins added.
WVU appeared to be in good shape with 2:31 left when Aaric Murray
cashed in on a traditional three-point play to give the Mountaineers an eight-point lead, 64-56. West Virginia led by five with 1:23 left when Murray fed Kilicli in the post on a play Huggins had called following a timeout.
But then on the other end Hannahs was left alone for his fourth 3 of the game to cut West Virginia’s lead to two, 66-64. Tech elected to play defense instead of fouling the Mountaineers and the strategy proved successful when a scrambling Juwan Staten
was unable to covert a contested layup with the shot clock winding down and only 12 seconds left on the game clock.
Tech got the rebound and was headed up the floor when Red Raider interim coach Chris Walker elected to call timeout with 9.5 seconds left to design one last shot to either tie or win the game.
When play resumed, West Virginia managed to stick close enough to Tech’s 3-point shooters as Gray’s 23-footer grazed the side of the rim with Staten on him as the horn went off.
“We were man-to-man and we were switching any crosses to make sure they didn’t get a 3 to beat us,” said Huggins. “They ran that through-the-gate thing where their two guys close and we switched it out and they couldn’t get the ball there. I think that’s why (Gray) ended up with the ball in his hands. I don’t think he was the guy who was supposed to get the ball.”
Kilicli had his way in the paint against the Red Raiders, going 9 of 11 from the floor and sending all three of Tech’s bigs to the bench with disqualifications. Jordan Tolbert fouled out with 6:12 left, Dejan Kravic departed with 4:18 to go and Jaye Crockett was gone with 2:31 remaining.
“(Kilicli) gets 25 of our 66 and if we could pass the ball he’d probably have 40,” said Huggins. “He’s not a very good free throw shooter and he hurt his shoulder in practice yesterday and it’s hurting him – that’s why he came out of the game because it was bothering him.”
Before fouling out, Crockett had 18 points and 10 rebounds while Hannahs finished with 12 on four 3s for Texas Tech, which falls to 9-14, 2-10.
Harris contributed 15 for WVU - his fifth straight double-digit scoring game and the ninth in his last 10 games.
“We made a couple of perimeter shots and that got them spread,” said Huggins.
West Virginia shot 48.7 percent from the floor and out-rebounded the Red Raiders 39-29. Tech made up for their deficiencies on the glass by knocking down seven 3s and getting a couple of easy baskets on baseline out-of-bounds plays.
WVU, now 13-12, 6-6, has another fast turnaround, the Mountaineers traveling to Kansas State tomorrow after practicing in Morgantown to take on the Wildcats on Monday night in Manhattan.
"It's not been easy to fly as much as we've flown here," said Huggins. "We need to do something with the schedule; the Big 12 needs to help us with the schedule, and I think they're very receptive to that."
The game will be televised on ESPN and will tip off at 9 p.m. West Virginia will then have five days off before taking on Oklahoma State at the Coliseum on Saturday afternoon.