Texas Tech (10-8, 2-3) versus West Virginia (10-8, 2-3)
Where: Morgantown, West Virginia, WVU Coliseum
When: 7 p.m. (CT) Wednesday
TV: Big 12 Network - Suddenlink (6), AT&T U-Verse (14), Direct TV (640), Dish (432)
Radio: Texas Tech Sports Network from Learfield Sports
The Matchup: Texas Tech and West Virginia have identical records, both overall and in conference play, but couldn’t be more different. The Mountaineers are a guard dominant team that can both penetrate and shoot from distance. And indeed, in Eron Harris, Juwan Staten and Terry Henderson, one could make a case that WVU has the deadliest guard rotation in the Big 12.
Harris, at 18 points per game, leads the Mountaineers and is also the team’s best deep threat. His 41 percent shooting from three-point range leads Bob Huggins’ club. Staten is a lead guard who gets most of his 17 points per game on penetration and on short pull-up jumpers. He’s also the owner of a gaudy three-to-one assist/turnover ratio and a six-rebounds-per-game average. The third member of the torrid threesome is Henderson, whose long three-pointer with seconds remaining deprived Texas Tech of a victory over WVU earlier in the season. He averages 12 points per outing.
Despite the generally superlative guard play, the Mountaineers have struggled as of late. After dropping a home heartbreaker to No. 11 Oklahoma State in Morgantown, WVU has lost by 11 to Texas and by 22 at Kansas State.
Just as West Virginia is a skidding, guard-oriented team, so Texas Tech is a rising club hallmarked by strong interior play. After beginning conference action with three straight losses (all of which were winnable), the Red Raiders have strung together impressive consecutive victories over No. 12 Baylor and at TCU.
As ever, forwards Jaye Crockett and Jordan Tolbert lead Tech with 14 and six, and 12 and seven respectively, but somewhat unexpected contributions from Dejan Kravic and Robert Turner have been critical to Tech’s recent winning ways.
Kravic has been a stat-stuffer supreme of late, scoring in double digits, yanking down nearly double digits in rebounds, and handing out assists with the proficiency of a point guard. In short, he is developing into a real weapon and a matchup problem for centers and power forwards who don’t have Kravic’s mobility and range.
Point guard Turner, who had had a pair of miserable shooting games against Iowa State and West Virginia, has caught fire in his last three outings. Over that stretch Turner has averaged 15 points per game on 14-of-24 shooting. On the season he averages 10 points, three rebounds, three assists and one steal per game. And he has been a great finisher on the fast break, an area in which he had struggled earlier in the season.
Tech Player to Watch: The aforementioned Dejan Kravic has been playing like fellow Balkan baller Toni Kukoc lately. He leads the team in blocked shots, has almost as many assists as turnovers—quite a stat for a seven-footer—and has developed into a legitimate scoring option. When Crockett or Tolbert experience foul trouble—not an uncommon occurrence—it is critical that Kravic step up to carry the interior game. Lately, he has done just that.
West Virginia Player to Watch: Point guard Juwan Staten is an amazing player who does just about everything on the basketball court from his position at the point. If Robert Turner can make Staten work hard on defense, perhaps some of Staten’s multiple offensive game will suffer.
Notable: Texas Tech, at 75 percent, is one of the best free throw shooting teams around, but their proficiency from the charity stripe seems to bring out the best in the opposition, who are shooting 74 percent from the line themselves.
Quotable: “It [TCU] is a really big win and helps make the Baylor game look like it was not just a coincidence. Coach was telling us that it is like golf and you have to validate your birdie. He said that before the game and it was serious because if we came back and lost this game, the win at Baylor would not have been validated.” — Tech guard Dusty Hannahs