MORGANTOWN — It was Senior Night for West Virginia's Daxter Miles Jr. and Jevon Carter on Monday night at the Coliseum.
In an emotional pregame ceremony, the former blew kisses to the crowd, while the latter took his time walking the traditional carpet, seemingly soaking it all in. They both kissed the hardcourt.
“I’ve done a lot of Senior Nights,” said West Virginia coach Bob Huggins. “I’ve never seen two seniors go down and kiss the floor. Those two guys love this place.”
“That was Dax’s idea,” Carter said with a smile.
A special WVU night for certain. (“It was amazing, man,” Carter said. “I don’t have a lot of words. A lot of emotion.”)
Meanwhile, the visiting Texas Tech team came in much like Iowa State did on Saturday – short-handed. Leading scorer Keenan Evans did not play nor did fifth-leading scorer Zach Smith or usual starter Justin Gray.
And it was also one that played out much as the Iowa State game did. The Mountaineers beat the very short-handed Cyclones 85-70 on Saturday. Also, WVU once again followed a season-long pattern of allowing large leads to dwindle and finding itself in a battle.
Eventually on Monday, though, the Mountaineers won the Big 12 home game 84-74 before a sellout crowd of 14,542 and an ESPN2 national television audience at the Coliseum. Carter had 21 points and Miles had 18, while Esa Ahmad had his second straight double-double with 11 points and 11 rebounds.
West Virginia now finds itself in second place by itself to Kansas at 11-6 in Big 12 play. The Mountaineers are 22-8 overall.
Early, it appeared the game was going to play out as one would expect. The Mountaineers began not only in fine fashion, but in spectacular fashion.
Miles was hitting treys. Carter was hitting his step-back jumper. Sagaba Konate and Esa Ahmad were blocking shots and dunking.
When Carter went baseline at the 9:52 mark of the first half, West Virginia found itself up by 20 at 27-7.
“When we play with a lot of energy, we’re pretty good,” said Huggins.
Yet, as has been the case much of this season, Tech battled back and WVU had to scramble.
Konate had to sit with a pair of fouls and that opened the lane and gate for Tech, which cut the lead to seven. At the break, West Virginia led 42-29.
Carter and Miles both had 11 points at the half and seemed stuck on the number – until it was time to push the Mountaineers over the hump.
With the score 61-48, Miles converted a pair of free throws. On the next possession, the senior looked inside, saw Maciej Bender and chose to cut loose of a 3-ball. It swished, giving the Mountaineers a 66-48 lead.
Carter then shut down Texas Tech, now 22-8, for good with a steal on a fast break and converted free throw to give the hosts a 71-52 advantage.
Tech received 26 points from Jarrett Culver and 24 from Niem Stevenson to help the Red Raiders stay in the game, despite their missing talent. Coach Chris Beard didn’t make excuses.
“Obviously you can’t win a Big 12 game when you get down 16-0,” he said. “At that point, though, you just try to give himself a chance. I thought we did, cutting it before back-to-back turnovers. These Big 12 games are always long games. No lead is safe and no deficient isn’t manageable. We showed a lot of fight, but we have to play better.”
West Virginia will complete the regular season this Saturday on the road against Texas. The Longhorns entered their Monday game at Kansas 17-12 overall and 7-9 in Big 12 play. The WVU-Texas game will be played at noon and televised on ESPN.
West Virginia now leads the series with Texas Tech 11-3.
NOTES: According to associate athletic director Matt Wells, the final season ticket sales for the Mountaineer men hit 7,763 in addition to 1,645 mini-packages. Revenue exceeded $4.1 million, making this season the second-highest ticket sales year on record. Also, WVU broke the single season attendance record with its sellout on Monday. The number reached 209,164. The Mountaineers finished with the second highest attendance average (12,304) behind the 2009-10 Final Four season (12,377). There were, however, three fewer non-conference home games – when attendance is lowest – in 09-10.