|Field Goal %||38.8||45.6|
|Three Point %||36.8||33.3|
|Free Throw %||90.9||88.9|
The West Virginia Mountaineers jumped out to a commanding 28-11 lead over No. 7 Texas Tech Red Raiders midway through the first half. Eight different Mountaineers scored during that span and held Texas Tech without a field for 10 minutes in the first half.
“I thought our guys were really ready to play.” State West Virginia head coach Bob Huggins after the game. “They were really looking forward to this, having gotten beaten up pretty good in Lubbock. They were looking forward to the game.”
In the final two minutes of the half, freshmen Emmitt Mathews Jr scored five-straight points after Texas Tech had cut the Mountaineers lead to four. Mathews set a new career high 15-points before halftime.
“I think my teammates do a really good of getting me open, without them I would be nothing.” Said Mathews. “Coach Huggs does a really good job of getting me in spots to get the right shots off and I just shoot it.”
West Virginia dominated the glass in the first 20 minutes, outrebounding Texas Tech 26-11 and freshmen Derek Culver was a big part of the success grabbing seven of his 13 rebounds in the first half.
“I try to go out there and play with energy – bring energy to my team.” Stated Culver. “Play out there with pride and heart and everything else that carried on in which made me rebound at a high rate.”
The Mountaineers were holding onto a double-digit lead and went up by 16 after a loose ball was scooped up by Jordan McCabe and dished it over to Mathews in the corner for a three. However, Texas Tech slowly started to chip away and took a one-point lead with 2:03 left in the game.
West Virginia seemed to be running out of gas but dug deep in the final two minutes to pull out the win.
“I wouldn’t necessarily say it was adrenaline, but I’ll say it has been a long season and we’ve been up and down.” Explained freshmen Derek Culver. “We know how it feels to be down, so when it’s time to actually dig in and win in the trenches you gotta go out there with your brothers and lock in and take the game over – no miscues a and little mishaps. If you take care of those everything else will fall into place.”
Emmitt Mathews Jr sealed the game with a pair of free throws to push the WVU lead to five with eight second remaining and finished the night with 28 points.
“He’s getting more comfortable, that’s the biggest thing.” Said Huggins. “He’s obviously a talented kid. He’s playing with a lot of confidence. He listens to everything and he’s really learning how to move without the ball, which is critical for someone who plays his position. He’s shooting the ball better, but he puts time in. Great shooters always put time in. He’s not afraid to put time in.”
Freshmen point guard Jordan McCabe finished the game with 13 points and eight assists and has been a big part of this turnaround at the end of the year. He was again asked what the difference is now.
“I can’t remember exactly when it was during the season when that we kind of got everything in order and started to grow day by day, but you could just kind of feel a difference in the culture.” State McCabe. “We knew that needed to shift in terms of our practices and all of our workouts. We started to take steps and strides. And I think to be honest, we just got back to what West Virginia does. We got back to doing the things that made us come here in the first place. We watched the teams led by Dax and JC and guys before them, just playing extremely hard and representing West Virginia in the right way. I think once we all bought into that – I think a buy in is the biggest thing that you need out of a successful team. I don’t know if we had the buy in early, but we’ve figured that out and that’s really been a testament to our success down the stretch.”
Since the start of the Big 12 Tournament there has only been one thing on this young teams’ mind.
“We’re playing to get in the NCAA Tournament. We had a meeting. We sat down and talked about it and this is our chance. Two down, two to go.”
West Virginia will play the three seed Kansas Jayhawks at approximately 9:00 pm on ESPN or ESPN 2.