KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Two down, two to go.
That’s the mindset of West Virginia coach Bob Huggins after his Mountaineers upset No. 7 Texas Tech 79-74 on Thursday night.
The Mountaineers are 80 minutes away from making the NCAA Tournament as the 10th seed in the Big 12 Tournament.
“We’re playing to be in the NCAA Tournament, that’s what we’re doing,” Huggins said. “We had a meeting and sat down and talked about it and this is our chance.”
West Virginia (14-19) advances to the semifinals, against either No. 17 Kansas or Texas, on Friday night.
The Mountaineers were led in scoring by Emmitt Matthews, who had a career-high 28 points. This is only the fourth game this season he’s scored in double figures.
“I think my teammates do a really good job of getting me the ball,” Matthews said. “Without them I would be nothing. Coach Huggins does a really good job of getting me in the good spots to get the right shots off.”
Jarrett Culver scored 26 points, Tariq Owens had 14, and Matt Mooney had 12 for Texas Tech (26-6).
Matthews hit a corner 3 to give West Virginia a 16-point lead with nine minutes to go in the game, but Texas Tech scored 16 of the next 18 to get within four.
The Red Raiders took a 69-68 lead on a basket by Culver, their first lead since it was 7-5. But the Mountaineers scored seven of the next nine to regain the lead, 75-71.
Culver missed a 3 with 20 seconds left and Tech trailing 77-74, and Matthews sealed the victory with two free throws.
“If you can take a quick two, you do, but I thought it was an open look at three,” Red Raider head coach Chris Beard said. “I thought it was a good look by Jarrett, and I would want him to take that shot again if we are in the same position.”
The Mountaineers went on an 11-2 run early and led by 10 just eight minutes into the game.
“The story today was all about West Virginia,” Beard said. “Give them credit. They played great and have three of their last five games. They’ve got chemistry.”
The Red Raiders, co-regular season champs, trailed 28-11 in the first half before switching to a zone defense and thwarting the Mountaineer offense as they began to mount a rally.
“Well, it’s better than a slow start,” Huggins said. “They were really looking forward to this game, having gotten beaten up pretty good in Lubbock.”
The Red Raiders, one of the hottest teams in the country entering the game, were outrebounded 44-30 and West Virginia scored 22 second-chance points.
The Mountaineers have won three of their last five games and seem to be hitting their stride.
“We’ve had so many injuries and we basically lost four starters and these guys have been great,” Huggins said. “They believe in what we’re doing and are coachable. They believe we can win and it seems like every game somebody different steps up.”
West Virginia: Mountaineers live to see another day and sit two wins from a spot in the NCAA Tournament.
Texas Tech: The loss hurts the resume and is the worst of the year for the Red Raiders. It was also their first defeat since a Feb. 2 loss at Kansas.
The Mountaineers will take on the winner of Kansas and Texas on Friday night.
Texas Tech will find out its NCAA Tournament berth on Sunday.