Young Mountaineers Learn Another Hard Lesson
Lubbock, TX – The Texas Tech Red Raiders (13-7, 4-3) shot 54.3% (25-46) from the field and an unbelievable 11-17 (64.7%) from three-point range to upset the No. 12 West Virginia Mountaineers (16-4, 4-3) Wednesday night continuing their road woes.
The numbers are phenomenal, and while those numbers are a stark contrast to what the Red Raiders shot in Morgantown with the Mountaineer defense holding them to one of their lowest outputs of the season, there are a few factors that come into play.
The first, as always, is defense.
“We gave them step-in shots,” said West Virginia head coach Bob Huggins. “And from day one, with this group, all we’ve talked about defensively is, ‘They do not get a step-in shot. They got to shoot it off the bounce – they got to shoot it off the bounce. They can’t straight-line drive you. The two things we can’t do defensively is, give straight-line drives and step-in shots,’ and we did both of those.”
Effort can be contributed to the lack of execution, but as Huggins summed it up after expounding on the subject, “They were the aggressor. We were not the aggressor,” which is the second part of this equation.
“We didn’t respond the way that I would like for our guys to respond to the game. We should have responded a whole lot better,” said Huggins. “They beat us to every loose ball. They beat us to every 50/50 ball they got. They kicked our butt on the glass and that should never ever happen with those guys that we have. So, consequently, they got more shots and they made shots. We didn’t make shots. It’s kind of amazing, honestly, that we stayed in the game because we weren’t very good, and they were very good. And they made shots they don’t normally make.”
Statistically, the last two road games are comparable, but the Mountaineers body language was horrendous in the previous road game at Kansas State. The West Virginia team that showed up that day, bared no resemblance of the team that had Kansas on the ropes the week before.
The team came out focused and, at times, played with an edge on Wednesday night. However, as sophomore Derek Culver put it, they played “out of character”.
“I really can’t pinpoint it necessarily but, I just feel like we get too caught up in our emotions and the crowd and everything, we just became real out of character of what we do,” said Culver.
West Virginia received three technical fouls in the second half. The first one came early after Jermaine Haley cut it to three attacking the basket for the bucket, but he said something and a technical was issued.
Then, less than two minutes later and West Virginia down five, Oscar Tshiebwe was given a technical after sending T.J. Holyfield's attempt at the rim into the stands and then yelling something to him afterward.
Finally, Gabe Oshabuohien was dialed up for a “T” after what appeared to be just shaking his head, but it also looked like he said something.
Now, you can call those “soft calls” and I honestly would put them in that category, but that’s how some games are called and that’s how this game was officiated.
One of the officials is Doug Sirmons, who happens to be one of the officials Huggins called the “three blind mice”, works several of West Virginia’s games throughout the year, even non-conference games. You may not like the way he officiates a game but he’s fairly consistent with his calls during the season.
This is a learning curve, not only for a young Mountaineer team, but for college basketball players throughout the country because officials that work these games interpret these new “cylinder” and “freedom of movement” rules the NCAA seemingly loves to tweak every year is making it harder on these crews to be consistent across the board.
I’ve digressed. The point is, these players should know, for the most part, which official is going to call a game a certain way, if not, adjust during the game. Undoubtedly, that’s not fair to basketball players everywhere, but that’s the hand they’re all dealt.
There were 54 fouls called in the game and several were ticky-tacky calls that were made and some of it was over-aggression or playing with too much of an edge that consequently, cost your team eight points from the free-throw line. Yes, eight because I didn’t mention the intentional foul when Oscar grabbed a player’s jersey from behind in the paint.
However, it shouldn’t stop anyone from stopping the ball, denying the pass and making teams shoot overtop of you.
West Virginia must find that balance on the road. While teams can get motivation from opposing fans, the Mountaineers must find a way to block out the odds stacked against them when walking into hostile environments. Play hard, within the rules that night, execute, and come out with some road wins.
While the Mountaineers opponents “were desperate” the last two games you’ll find as the season goes along, every team in the Big 12 is looking for a win. As Huggins said, “They haven’t learned yet.”
West Virginia is back in action Saturday as they look, not only to bounce back but get revenge on the Kansas State Wildcats at 2:00 pm on ESPN2.