Takeaways: Texas Tech takes down West Virginia in thriller, 72-71
No. 8 Texas Tech rebounded after a loss to No. 9 Oklahoma with a 72-71 win over No. 2 West Virginia on Saturday.
Saturday's win comes a year and 10 days later when the Red Raiders took the Mountaineers to overtime and won inside the USA, 77-76, on Jan. 3, 2017.
Here are notes and quotes from the session.
Coach Beard’s opening statement:
“The first thing I’d like to say, I speak for everybody in our program, especially our players, is we’re just really appreciative of the crowd. I think that’s one of the best crowds in Texas Tech basketball history. Why do I say that? Because our students aren’t here. So first I want to thank the students that were here. Classes don’t start for a couple of days but it’s very apparent to us that we had students come back to Lubbock early to come to this basketball game so that means the world to us. Our student attendance is at the top of our list of priorities as we build the program. And I just want to thank Lubbock again for coming. I did an ESPN deal right after the game and the announcers were kind of surprised and I was like, ‘this isn’t a surprise for any of us here. Lubbock supports a winner. Our guys have worked really hard to have a winning program so tonight’s attendance was just fantastic. I just really want to appreciate and thank everybody. Number two, it’s a great win for us because it’s the next Big 12 game on a schedule. If you’re going to win Big 12 games you’re going to have to beat top-10 teams because there’s a lot of teams ranked in our league ... This game’s special when you go against somebody that you think’s the best and you’re fortunate enough to win it means a lot to you. So it was a great win for our team and I’m happy for our players.”
Texas Tech was outrebounded 31-to-27 but finished ahead of West Virginia in points in the paint and bench contribution.
West Virginia led for 29 minutes and 25 seconds with Texas Tech holding the lead for seven minutes. The largest lead in the game was West Virginia by 11 in the second half with 12:58 on the clock. Texas Tech’s biggest margin was by six with 15 seconds left in the game.
Francis was one of Texas Tech’s leaders today on the court. He finished with 17 points, going 5-6 from the field and 3-of-4 from beyond the arc.
“First of all, my teammates were helping me,” Francis said. “Norense was setting great screens for me to be open or create so I was just focused on trying to get a shot or create.”
Late in the game Evans was able to maneuver his way to nail a contested two-point shot that virtually led to the final outcome.
Evans said he was simply focused on hitting the shot to propel his team while trying to get enough space between him and the opposing Mountaineer.
“Just trying to focus on the rim, got in there and I was just kinda looking, to see who was coming,” Evans said, “at the end of the day I just kinda finished it so it was a good deal to get that little separation.”
During the game, the Texas Tech PA announcer said the home game was officially labeled as sold out.
The total number of people inside the United Supermarkets Arena came out to 15,098.
“It was amazing,” Francis said on fans rushing the court after the win. “The crowd was behind us the whole game. It feels good playing in that kind of atmosphere out there. Thanks to them for having our backs throughout the entire game. It was great.”
One telling stat was Texas Tech’s 24-of-28 shooting day at the charity stripe.
West Virginia tallied up 27 personal fouls on the day compared to Texas Tech’s 19.
“It’s a big deal the amount of work we put in at free throws whether it be games or just getting in the work on our own,” Evans said. “It just helped us pull out this victory.”
“It kept us in the game,” Beard said on the free throw success. “Didn’t shoot the ball great in the first half from the field. Didn’t break the press very good but the free throw line kept us in the game and I thought we rebounded with them well in the first half.”
West Virginia’s leading scorer is someone who coach Beard said will be leading an NBA team like the Spurs because of his aggressiveness – Jevon Carter.
Carter finished with 28 points including the final made three of the game with one second remaining. 13 of his 28 points came in the second half.
Beard said putting Zhaire Smith on Carter showed how much Zhaire is a competitor despite Carter’s talent.
“I thought above all what Zhaire did was competed,” Beard said. “You can’t stop guys like this but you can compete and make it tough on him ... but I think Zhaire at the very minimum competed against him.”
Despite a big win, Texas Tech also suffered a loss with one of the stars on the team.
Beard announced that forward Zach Smith will be out for some time with a broken bone in his foot.
“It’s not good. It’s tough to talk about,” Beard said on Smith’s injury. “Zach’s out. He broke a bone in his foot ... It’s going to be a deal where he’s going to be out for the near future. So it’s just frustrating ... I choose not to really talk about next man up. I choose to talk about Zach and how this sucks because this is a guy who played all year, all his career to get to his senior season. He’s put himself in a big position and I just hate it for him that he’s not going to be able to help our team in the near future on the court. To me, let’s embrace it. I just feel really bad for Zach. But then the other thing is the team’s got to move on and I thought tonight our guys, under great adversity, really stepped up and played for Zach. This won’t define Zach’s basketball career or life. Just like this injury’s not going to define our team. We’re going to keep moving forward. We’re going to try to find a way to compete. But the human element of it – I just feel really bad for Zach. Zach’s one of the most unselfish players I’ve ever coached. I would do anything in the world for him. I’d give him my foot tomorrow if I could but I just can’t do that. So I appreciate everybody keeping Zach in your prayers and thoughts. Let’s get this thing well so he can have a great professional basketball career.”
Moving forward, Texas Tech will have five wins over AP top-25 teams on the year.
However, when asked about closing games and taking down top opponents, Beard said this isn’t the finished product he is seeking for Texas Tech.
“No, it’s real early – knock on wood for that,” Beard said. “We won some close games last year, too, but we were on the bad end of it more than the good. I mean think about this ... the difference between a disappointing season and a good season is three or four possessions. The difference between a good season and a great season is another three or four possessions and we were right there last year. So this year it is nice to win close games but we’re just getting started. This race doesn’t really eve start until February. We’re all just trying to position ourselves and win the next one. I got a great friend this week told me, ‘prince today, frog tomorrow,’ and for some reason in the heat of the game, you might wonder what I think about in these moments, I kept thinking about that. I was like, ‘damn, I know we’re going to be a frog again at some point, it’s the Big 12 but I want to be a prince one more day.’ So just happy for our players. They made enough plays for us to win a close game.”