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February 2, 2013

Mountaineers pull out victory in Lubbock





Continuing with the up and down aspect of the 2012-2013 West Virginia basketball season, the Mountaineers found a number of positives to build off of Saturday afternoon, defeating Texas Tech 77-61 in Lubbock.

The positives started early for the Mountaineers from an unlikely area - shooting. After struggling to find consistency from the field throughout much of the season, Bob Huggins' squad showcased their potential from all over the court in prior to the first media timeout, pulling out to an early 11-2 lead.

West Virginia was able to attack the Red Raiders from all areas of the court, with Gary Browne nailing a three; Eron Harris and Aaric Murray attacking a loose Texas Tech defense from midrange; and Deniz Kilicli breaking his season-long layup slump in the paint to help give the Mountaineers an early advantage.

A hot start for the Mountaineers would quickly cool off in the next four minute span, as a number of turnovers frequently placed the ball back into the hands of Texas Tech. West Virginia continued to struggle inbounding the ball on Saturday, throwing away the inbounds pass three times in the game's first eight minutes.

But West Virginia's struggles out of bounds were not enough to spark a Texas Tech run. The struggling Red Raiders helped prompt West Virginia's early success, committing seven turnovers and going only 1-6 from the field entering the second media timeout at a 16-4 deficit.

Coming out of the break, however, the switch was quickly flipped. After being unable to hit the broadside of a barn at the beginning of the game, the Red Raiders attacked the turnover-prone Mountaineers on defense and found quick offensive success en route to a 10-0 run. After starting 1-6 from the field, the Red Raiders would go 5-5 from the field during the run to close within one of the Mountaineers.

A Kevin Noreen three pointer would break the slump for West Virginia, followed shortly thereafter by a contested three pointer from Browne, to push the lead back to four - 22-18 - at the third media timeout. The early offensive success for West Virginia would become a distant memory, as the Mountaineers would commit four turnovers during the Red Raider's run.

The Mountaineers and Red Raiders would exchange blows for the remainder of the half, with West Virginia ultimately coming out on top with a 34-31 lead heading into the locker room.

But the big story of the half would be turnovers for both squads. In an ugly display of basketball, the Mountaineers and Red Raiders would combine for a total of 24 turnovers (12 a piece) in the first half alone.

Furthermore, Texas Tech's aggressive offensive strategy helped spark the Red Raider's comeback from an early 12 point deficit, placing the young squad at the line frequently. The Red Raiders took an advantage from the line over the Mountaineers into the half, going 9-11 from the charity stripe compared to West Virginia's 2-5.

Coming out of the half, the Mountaineers continued to build off their first half offensive success. After shooting 50 percent from the field (14-28) and 50 percent from three in the first half (6-12), Coach Huggins' squad showed that the first half was not a fluke early, with Harris connecting on a wide-open three point jumper to open play.

Harris, alongside Kilicli, would be the catalysts for West Virginia's offense early in the second half, attacking the Red Raiders in the paint and from beyond the arc, pushing the Mountaineer's lead to six at the first media timeout.

But Harris and Kilicli would not be the only two providing West Virginia with success on the court. Following another Harris three pointer, pushing his point total to 11 on the day, sophomore Juwan Staten joined in on the fun, picking the pocket of Texas Tech's Daylen Robinson in the front court and driving in for the slam. The dunk from Staten would give West Virginia a 10 point advantage, their first double-digit lead since the 12:00 mark of the first half.

Texas Tech would not go down without a fight, however, going on a 7-2 run and closing to within four points of West Virginia with just over eight minutes remaining.

But the Red Raiders could not get any closer during the run. A short spurt by the Mountaineers, prompted from the free throw line and a difficult layup by Murray, would push the lead back to six for the Mountaineers at the under 8:00 media timeout.

One area of concern for the Mountaineers, however, continued to be foul trouble for much of the second half. For most of the half, three Mountaineers (Kilicli, Murray and Noreen) played with four fouls, prompting concern in the paint for West Virginia.

But those concerns would quickly be made moot thanks to a 10-0 West Virginia run leading to the final media timeout. A string of three pointers from Harris and Browne, coupled with offensive success in the paint, helped to spark the final run for the Mountaineers.

Inept play by Texas Tech also pushed the Mountaineers towards victory with the final run, turning the ball over on four consecutive possessions; all four leading to a West Virginia basket.

The 10-0 run put West Virginia up by 14 points with just under four minutes remaining before the Mountaineers put it in cruise to collect their tenth win of the season.

Final score: West Virginia 77, Texas Tech 61.

The Mountaineers were led in scoring Saturday afternoon by freshman Eron Harris, who continued his mid-season success by contributing 18 points to the victory.

Harris was joined in double figures by Gary Browne, with 11 points; Aaric Murray with 10 points; and Juwan Staten with 11 points.

The Mountaineers return home Monday night for a Big Monday showdown against the Texas Longhorns. Tipoff is at 9pm.


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