WVU men’s basketball looks to slip up at No. 18 Texas Tech

West Virginia men’s basketball hits the road to face its third consecutive ranked opponent in the No. 18 Texas Tech Red Raiders at United Supermarkets Arena on Saturday in Lubbock. Tipping is set at noon ET on ESPN2.

The Mountaineers are looking to bounce back with a win over the Red Raiders after a pair of tough losses to top 10 opponents. However, they have shown promise in these games, as their players look to return to full fitness from the opening game of the Big 12 roster, especially guard Taz Sherman.

However, the team shows several areas of improvement in its statistics. Most glaring comes from an important part of the floor, the paint, where WVU made just seven of their 22 lay-ups against Baylor on Tuesday in a 77-68 home loss.

On the other side of the sideline, the Mountaineers will face one of the best defensive teams in the league at Texas Tech, as they maintain teams at a 38% field goal rate and 58.7 points per match.

“They have a large size. They don’t really have little guys,” WVU coach Bob Huggins said. “They have great height, they have great length and they have great athleticism.”

The Red Raiders have exceeded some expectations in 2021-22 by settling under first-year coach Mark Adams.

WVU holds the all-time series against Texas Tech 16-6 and just swept the Red Raiders in 2020-21.

Here are some of the biggest stories ahead of Saturday’s game:

Get WVU Guards

Sherman got back into shape after missing a game with COVID-19. He played his first big game against Baylor on Tuesday, scoring 18 points.

Still, Huggins says his precious guard is still not 100% recovered.

“I said it, we just gotta get Taz back,” Huggins said. “He needs to regain some of his strength, gain some weight back, but I think he played pretty well.”

Some different climbers have stepped up to rack up points since Sherman’s absence, much to Huggins’ delight. Malik Curry came off the Mountaineers bench with two outstanding performances, averaging 21 points during that streak. Sean McNeil racked up a double-digit 10-game streak, while Jalen Bridges added his first 20-plus goal game of the season against Oklahoma State on January 11.

“We’re fine,” Huggins added.

Preparing for a defensive battle

West Virginia has harassed opposing offenses all season, and it shows in its plus-5.63 rotation margin on the season. When it comes to his scoring defense, however, he ranks ninth in the Big 12, allowing 68.9 points per game. Just a few years ago, this brand was in the middle – if not near the top – of the conference.

Now, however, teams like Texas Tech have led the league’s defensive standings as the Big 12 transforms into a defensive league. TTU’s defense only tells one side of the story, however, as they use this uncompromising style of play at the other end of the field for 73.7 points of attack per game.

They achieve this despite having one of the lowest three-point percentages in the Big 12.

“Certainly we have to make shots, but we really have to do a really good job of defending them,” Huggins said. “They do a great job of spreading you and penetrating you with it, so we have to do a good job of defending them.”

The Red Raider offense is one of the most prevalent in the league, averaging four players in double figures. He’s led by fifth-year transfer forward Bryson Williams, who scored 22 points as the Red Raiders beat Kansas at home on January 8.

WVU at No. 18 Texas Tech game information

The whistleblower between WVU and Texas Tech is scheduled for noon ET in Lubbock. Saturday begins with an all-new episode of The Bob Huggins Show, airing at 9 a.m. ET on Nexstar stations in West Virginia. Next is Mountaineer GameDay, West Virginia’s funniest pregame show, at 10 a.m. ET. This week’s episode of Mountaineer GameDay features an exclusive interview with Graham Harrell, the WVU Football Program’s new Offensive Coordinator.

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