Texas Tech's Dejan Kravic (11) and West Virginia's Dominique Rutledge (1) chase a loose ball.
KANSAS CITY, Mo. - So many things have gone wrong with West Virginia's basketball team this season that one would think it hard for Bob Huggins to pinpoint just a few of the most major issues.One would be wrong."Our credo for as long as I've coached has been, 'Get to the ball.' It's hard to win in any sport when you don't get to the ball,'' Huggins said. "And this group, for whatever reason, is the worst that we've ever had at getting to the ball.''And Wednesday night it cost the Mountaineers again. In fact, it ended their season.
After blocking one shot and then watching another go awry in the closing seconds, West Virginia failed to get to either. And so on the third try, Texas Tech's Dejan Kravic hit a follow shot just ahead of the buzzer.The result was a 71-69 loss in the first game of the Big 12 tournament at the Sprint Center and an end to WVU's long, painful season.The loss was the seventh in a row for the Mountaineers and brings to an end an initial season in the Big 12 that had very few high points. The only games West Virginia (13-19) won in their first year of league play were against the other three teams relegated to Wednesday's play-in games (Tech, Texas and TCU), and then couldn't even escape that group when its season was on the line.The 19 losses match the 1998-99 team (10-19) for the second most in school history. Only the 2001-02 team that finished 8-20 had more.Texas Tech (11-19), which had lost twice to the Mountaineers in the regular season and had lost 15 of its previous 17 games, advances to play top-seeded and No. 7 Kansas in today's 3 p.m. quarterfinals.Getting to the ball would have at least extended the game. Failing to get to it was fatal. Still, Huggins seemed almost resigned to the fate. He'd seen it happen so many times before.Here's how the final seconds went, after WVU had trailed by as many as 14 points in the first half and fought back to take several brief leads late in the game:The game was tied at 69 and Tech had the ball with 20.1 seconds. After a timeout with 14.3 seconds to play, the Red Raiders set their winning sequence in motion. First, freshman point guard Josh Gray drove to the basket, but Aaric Murray easily swatted away his shot."I really thought it was going into the stands,'' said Murray. "I couldn't believe that guy jumped up and got it.''That guy was 6-foot-4 junior guard Jamal Williams. At that point probably four seconds remained and he immediately hoisted a shot from around the 3-point line.That one bounced around the rim and off, but Kravic, a 6-11 junior, was right there to rebound it on the short side and put it back in with four-tenths of a second to play to earn the win.
"Sometimes,'' Texas Tech coach Chris Walker said, "I would rather be lucky than good.''This time the luck was all on Tech's side. Even Huggins knew that part of West Virginia's problem wasn't so much an inability to get to the ball as it was the bounce of the ball."Aaric makes a block and, unfortunately, it gets knocked to them,'' Huggins said. "And then if [the Williams shot from the corner] bounces over the rim we rebound. But we didn't block out, either."As much time as we spend on rebounding the ball and blocking out, you would think that at a time like that maybe you try to get the ball. But they got a very fortunate bounce. It bounced right back to where they were.''After trailing by as many as 14 points in the first half, West Virginia spent much of a game clawing out of a hole. This time the Mountaineers closed the gap to three before the first half was over, trailed by five at the half and then by seven early in the second half. Going almost exclusively inside to score, the Mountaineers finally put together a run midway through the second half and took their first lead, 54-52, on Murray's back-to-back inside baskets with 81/2 minutes to play.
The game see-sawed back and forth after that. Tech led by as many as four, 64-60, before Murray and Jabarie Hinds hit back-to-back 3-pointers to get the lead back for the Mountaineers, 66-64. It was tied at 66 and WVU didn't fall behind until Kravic scored inside for Tech with 1:02 to play to put the Red Raiders up by 69-68.
Deniz Kilicli made the front end of a one-and-one with 20.1 seconds to play to tie the game at 69, but missed the second. It was the third time in the final 2:26 that West Virginia made just one of two free throws. That set up the final sequence of the game.Terry Henderson scored 12 points for West Virginia, Murray added 11 and Kilicli 10.Eron Harris, who scored nine in the first half, was shut out in the second. That means West Virginia, for the first time since World War II, will finish the season without a player averaging double figures in points. Harris, at 9.9, needed 14 to raise his average to 10.0.For the second game in a row, WVU shot better than 50 percent (51 percent) and lost. Tech was helped by its own unusual 3-point shooting (8 for 12). The Red Raiders are statistically one of the worst 3-point shooting teams in the nation.Wednesday's boxscoreTexas Teh 71, West Virginia 69TEXAS TECH (11-19) M FG FT R A PDejan Kravic 32 4-7 2-4 7 1 10
Jordan Tolbert 22 5-8 1-3 1 0 11Josh Gray 32 2-8 6-6 7 6 10Jamal Williams 25 1-3 0-0 3 4 3Ty Nurse 19 3-4 3-4 0 2 12Dusty Hannahs 19 1-4 0-0 1 1 3Daylen Robinson 11 0-1 0-0 2 1 0Toddrick Gotcher 16 2-2 0-0 1 0 4Jaye Crockett 20 6-12 3-4 4 1 18Lammert Clark 4 0-3 0-0 2 0 0Team 3Totals 200 24-52 15-21 31 16 71WEST VIRGINIA (13-19) M FG FT R A PDeniz Kilicli 20 4-7 2-4 2 1 10Kevin Noreen 22 2-6 4-4 6 2 8Juwan Staten 19 0-0 0-0 1 1 0Eron Harris 38 3-8 2-2 3 2 9Matt Humphrey 11 3-4 0-0 1 0 7Dom. Rutledge 13 1-1 2-3 4 0 4Jabarie Hinds 21 2-7 0-0 0 2 5Gary Browne 5 0-0 0-0 0 0 0Terry Henderson 5-9 1-1 1 1 12Aaric Murray 18 4-5 2-2 8 2 11Keaton Miles 5 1-2 1-2 0 1 3Team 2Totals 200 25-49 14-18 28 12 69Half: TTU 37-32. 3-point goals: TTU 8-12 (Williams 1-2, Nurse 3-4, Hannahs 1-2, Crockett 3-3, Lammert 0-1); WVU 5-14 (Noreen 0-1, Harris 1-4, Humphrey 1-2, Hinds 1-3, Henderson 1-3, Murray 1-1). Technical fouls: Humphrey, Murray. Fouled out: Tolbert.Reach Dave Hickman at 304-348-1734 or firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him at Twitter.com/dphickman1.