LUBBOCK, Texas - West Virginia didn't merely reach its breaking point Monday night. It dribbled past it and then took three steps.An 11-point lead was gone. The calm leader lost his cool. The opponent was throwing in 3-pointers and three-point plays and walking off the court into a timeout while whatever amounted for a crowd rose and roared.Then just as quickly, the Mountaineers got it back together and got it right when it mattered. Juwan Staten, Devin Williams, Brandon Watkins and Terry Henderson made critical plays in the final three minutes of regulation, none greater than Henderson's long 3-pointer with 16.8 seconds remaining to force overtime."At that point in time," West Virginia Coach Bob Huggins said, "we didn't have any choice."
Once there, WVU persevered and prospered, scoring on the first seven possessions and never trailing to steal an 89-86 overtime win before a crowd of 5,005 at United Spirit Arena."It's always fun to win by a nice margin, but these are the games you live for," Staten said. "Everybody wants to play college basketball in a close game that goes down to the wire. We prepare for it every day in practice. We went out. We competed. We got it done."It was not without some chaos at the end, though. It was an 88-83 lead when Texas Tech's Toddrick Gotcher made a 3 with 6.7 seconds to go. WVU nearly turned ball over on the inbound pass twice in a row - and the second was initially ruled a turnover before the officials went to the monitor to review and reverse the call.Gary Browne was fouled when play resumed and he went 1-for-2 with 4.3 seconds left. The Red Raiders rebounded the miss and called their final timeout with 3.8 seconds left and the Mountaineers leading 89-86. A long pass from WVU's baseline evaded players from both teams before it went out of bounds off WVU under Texas Tech's basket with 3.4 seconds left. WVU didn't foul and Jaye Crockett missed a 3 from the corner over Henderson as the game ended."Now that we won, yeah, that was fun, but at the time, it's like, 'Man, why can't we get out of here? Why can't we do the right things?'" WVU guard Eron Harris said. "In the game, it hurt, but right now, it feels so good. It feels like we grinded out a good Big 12 road win."The Mountaineers shot 55.7 percent to win back-to-back road games in 54 hours after losing their past six true road games. WVU (10-5, 2-0 Big 12) will be in first place in the conference for Saturday's home game against No. 11 Oklahoma State."Significant," Harris said. "We want to be the best team in the Big 12. We're 2-0. Let's keep that streak going."Staten led all scorers with 25 points on 10-for-12 shooting and made two free throws for an 87-83 lead with 36 seconds to go after going 3-for-6 in regulation. That made up for his technical foul with 4:05 left in regulation that swung the game back to the Red Raiders.Harris, back in the lineup after playing through the flu and coming off the bench in Saturday's win at TCU, had 18 points and Henderson added 16. Williams had 12 and seven rebounds.The Red Raiders (8-7, 0-2) were led by Torbert's 18 points and 12 rebounds, but he fouled out with 1:36 left in overtime. Gotcher had 17 points, Crockett 15 and Dusty Hannahs 14, including 10 in a key spurt that saw Texas Tech slice into WVU's 11-point lead early in the second half.The Mountaineers let that 44-33 lead drop to one point, but they also found four scores when Texas Tech made it a one-point game and another basket when it was a two-point game. That basket came when Staten barreled through the lane and scored to put the Mountaineers ahead 68-64, but was whistled for something unsportsmanlike by official John Higgins.
"I actually thought I got fouled," Staten said. "I didn't say anything. I turned around to look at who fouled me, so I looked at him and the ref thought it was a tech."Hannahs made two free throws and Crockett scored inside to tie the score. Crockett then flipped in a layup and made a free throw to give the Red Raiders their first lead since it was 5-4 early. But Staten hit a jumper and Williams answered a Texas Tech free throw with a layup as he was fouled. He missed his free throw, but Watkins grabbed one of his eight rebounds and scored to go ahead 74-72 with 1:55 remaining.The Red Raiders then led with 55 seconds to go on Tolbert's score before Watkins missed on a set play on an inbound pass lob from under the basket. Texas Tech made two free throws for a 77-74 lead, but left Henderson open deep behind the 3-point line."I was going to shoot the 3. No doubt about it, I was going to shoot the 3," Henderson said of the play that was designed for him or Harris. "We had to get a shot up. We were still down 3, so we needed to get a shot. That was as close a look as we got. Good thing I made it."Contact sportswriter Mike Casazza at email@example.com
or 304-319-1142. His blog is at blogs.charlestondailymail.com/wvu.