West Virginia guard Terry Henderson tries to grab a loose ball during a Big 12 tournament quarterfinal round game against Texas Tech at the Sprint Center in Kansas City.
KANSAS CITY – Dejan Kravic’s follow-up basket with 0.5 seconds left lifted ninth-seeded Texas Tech to a 71-69 victory over eighth-seeded West Virginia in the opening round of the Phillips 66 Big 12 Men’s Basketball Championship in the Sprint Center in Kansas City.
“It’s hard to beat a team three times,” noted Texas Tech coach Chris Walker. I’d rather be lucky than good. It comes down to playing everything out.”
The Red Raiders (11-19), which dropped both games to West Virginia during the regular season, led for the first 32 minutes of the game – twice by 14 in the first half - until the Mountaineers’ Aaric Murray hit a short jumper in the paint to give WVU a 54-52 lead.
After Jaye Crockett’s 3 from the wing put Tech ahead, 64-60, Murray once again answered with a 3 at the other end to reduce Texas Tech’s lead to one, 64-63. Jabarie Hinds followed with another 3 to make it 66-64, West Virginia, but eventually, Tech was able to retake the lead when Crockett got past his man on a straight-line drive to the basket and fed Kravic for a layup with 1:02 to play. Kravic was also fouled on the play by Eron Harris, but he was unable to complete the three-point play, leaving the score at 69-68.
WVU had three missed opportunities at the free throw line coming down the stretch, one by Keaton Miles, and two by Deniz Kilicli - his second one coming with 21 seconds left with the score tied at 69.
After Kilicli’s miss and a timeout called by Walker with 13.1 seconds left, the Red Raiders got two critical offensive rebounds when play resumed – the second coming from Kravic when he was left free to stick back Jamal Williams’ wild 3-point try from the corner just ahead of the horn.
“We didn’t block out, which I guess sometimes happens in situations like that,” said Huggins. “They got a very fortunate bounce – it bounced right back to him.”
It was one of 14 offensive rebounds the Red Raiders managed to grab for the game against West Virginia.
“Our credo for as long as I’ve coached is get to the ball. It’s hard to win when you can’t get to the ball,” explained Huggins. “For whatever reason, this group is the worst we’ve ever had at getting to the ball.”
Crockett once again gave West Virginia fits, scoring a game-high 18 points off the bench after putting up 31 in the first two games against the Mountaineers. Four other Red Raider players reached double figures: Ty Nurse (12), Jordan Tolbert (11), Kravic and Josh Gray (10 each).
Texas Tech shot 46.2 percent for the game, but hit 8 of 12 from 3 for 66.7 percent while also beating the Mountaineers on the glass, 31-28.
“When it comes down to this time of the year, one and done, you never know what is going to happen,” said Walker.
West Virginia got 12 from Terry Henderson, 11 off the bench from Murray and 10 from Kilcili. Harris scored 9, but all nine of those points came in the first half. Harris (9.9 ppg.) needed 14 tonight to average double figures for the season. It is the first time since 1944 that a WVU team failed to have a player average double digits for the year.
West Virginia did manage to shoot 51 percent for the game (25 of 49).
Two different Mountaineer players were whistled for technical fouls when West Virginia was fighting to get back into the game – one coming in the first half and the other coming early in the second half after it had cut the lead to one.
“I guess there was some talking going on and they told him to shut up and he continued talking,” said Huggins. “The truth of the matter is it should have never happened and it’s inexcusable.”
Defense, a staple of Huggins-coached teams, was sorely missing down the stretch. The Mountaineers gave up 91, 83, 83 and 71 points in their final four games – the 71 points tonight coming by a Texas Tech team that had scored 61 and 64 in the two prior two meetings against WVU this year.
Tonight’s loss capped a disappointing inaugural Big 12 season for West Virginia (13-19), which dropped six straight to end the regular season and now shows 19 defeats – the second most in school history. It is also the most consecutive losses (seven) and the most overall losses of Huggins’ long and successful coaching career.
“I'm not blaming anybody other than me,” said Huggins of his team’s performance this season. “We should have done a better job.”
Huggins last had a losing campaign during his first year at Akron in 1985 when his Zips team went 12-14.
Texas Tech will face Kansas tomorrow afternoon at 2 p.m. in the Big 12 quarterfinals.