MORGANTOWN — A lot of the attention prior to Saturday’s game between No. 17 West Virginia and No. 22 Texas Tech focused on two standout freshman — WVU’s Oscar Tshiebwe and TTU’s Jahmi’us Ramsey.
It was another freshman, however, who led the way for the Mountaineers.
Guard Miles “Deuce” McBride was WVU’s top scorer Saturday with a career-high 22 points — the majority of those coming in the second half — as the Mountaineers pulled away and beat the visiting Red Raiders 66-54 in front of an overflow crowd of 14,111 at the WVU Coliseum.
“He was really good, and then he got sped up a little bit too fast,” WVU coach Bob Huggins said of McBride. “We’re just trying to flatten it out and let him play.”
Texas Tech coach Chris Beard said he liked getting to watch McBride play on film, but the in-person experience was much less enjoyable for both him and the Red Raiders.
“We told our players that McBride was one of the best freshmen in the Big 12,” Beard said. “He’s a guy that doesn’t play like a freshman. He got away from us tonight at too many key moments.”
West Virginia (13-2, 2-1 Big 12) led throughout the game, but it was a lead that never felt safe with Texas Tech’s group of capable shooters.
The Mountaineers defense, however, would have a say in how well the Red Raiders shot the ball on Saturday. For the season, TTU was shooting 45 percent from the field and 33.4 percent from 3-point range prior to Saturday’s game, when West Virginia held the Red Raiders to a 21-of-70 performance overall and just 6 of 27 from range. It was the first time in 22 years a WVU team held an opponent to 54 or fewer points on at least 70 shot attempts.
“I thought we were OK [on defense],” Huggins said. “I didn’t think we were great. We were supposed to stay under them and not get back cut, but we probably got back cut six or seven times. The whole deal was to not let them shoot layups — make them shoot the ball over the top of us. I thought, for the most part, we did OK with it. We’ve got to become more consistent in a whole bunch of areas.”
Beard, however, was much more impressed with WVU’s defensive effort on Saturday.
“I can tell you this: Baylor is as good as advertised defensively and certainly tonight West Virginia — we have not played against a better defense this season than we played against tonight here at West Virginia,” Beard said. “They’re good.”
The Mountaineers, meanwhile, shot 20 of 46 from the field and were bad — again — with a 3-of-15 showing beyond the 3-point arc. West Virginia spent plenty of time at the foul line Saturday but made just 23 of 35 attempts.
Sophomore forward Derek Culver finished with nine points and seven rebounds for WVU. Tshiebwe led the Mountaineers with 17 rebounds.
“One of many parts of West Virginia’s identity is their size,” Beard said. “[They’re] kind of a unique team — a team you don’t see much in college basketball anymore with their two bigs. We had some game-plan stuff we wanted to get to, but game plans kind of go out the door when you can’t score.”
Sophomore guard Brandon Knapper, a former South Charleston High standout, also played well with 10 points against TTU. In addition to his 22 points, McBride found other ways to contribute with three rebounds and a steal. When McBride and Knapper were in the game together, good things were happening for West Virginia.
“We’re on the same team in practice,” McBride said. “We know where one of us is going to take over at any point because he’s a great guard at getting in the lane and penetrating. He has a great pull-up game too.
“Sometimes he likes when I bring it up [the floor] because he knows he has a guy who can’t guard him, and I’m the same way. We just kind of feed off each other.”
As for that headband Knapper has been wearing in each of West Virginia’s last two games?
“I think he needs to keep wearing it,” McBride said. “We’re 2-0 with him wearing it.”
For Texas Tech (10-5, 1-2 Big 12), junior guard Davide Moretti led the Red Raiders with 16 points and was the only TTU player to hit double-digits in scoring. Kyler Edwards scored nine points while Ramsey finished with eight.
“I like this team for West Virginia,” Beard said. “It has Coach Huggins’ DNA. They’re tough. They play together, they have a lot of balance and a lot of different players. They were as good as advertised and they gave us more than we could handle tonight.”
WVU stays at home for its next game, with the Mountaineers scheduled to host TCU at 9 p.m. Tuesday in the Coliseum.