Mountaineers take on Texas at Big 12 Tourney
By JIM BUTTA
KANSAS CITY, Mo. – West Virginia’s first visit to the Phillips 66/Big 12 Men’s Basketball Championship at the Sprint Center ended in an early exit as Texas Tech sent the Mountaineers packing with a 71-69 setback in an opening round game.
West Virginia fans don’t want to see a repeat when the old gold and blue takes to the hardwood tonight against the University of Texas in one of four quarterfinal contests.
“Everybody has seen how good we can be,” sophomore guard Eron Harris said following WVU’s regular-season ending 92-86 victory over No. 1 seed Kansas. “We just beat the best team in the league and we were blowing them out, basically, the whole game.
“That should show the whole country that West Virginia has great potential. We just have to be consistent.”
Something the Mountaineers (17-14, 9-9 Big 12) have not been this season while Texas (22-9, 11-7 Big 12) has made the most of WVU’s growing pains, winning by an 80-69 margin in Morgantown and then pounding out an 88-71 victory in Austin.
Doing most of the damage in both wins was the Longhorn duo of Jonathan Holmes and Cameron Ridley. The twosome combined for 24 rebounds and 21 points in Morgantowns.
Another thorn in the Mountaineers’ side has been sophomore guard Javan Felix. The New Orleans native tallied a team-high 19 points at the Coliseum and 18 points in the Horns’ home win.
All three are expected to be in the lineup when the two teams tipoff in the final quarterfinal matchup at 9:30 p.m. (EDT).
Holmes leads the team in scoring (13.0 ppg) and is second in rebounding (7.3 pg) and will be joined in the starting lineup by Ridley (11.5 ppg, 8.1 rpg), freshman Isaiah Taylor (12.6 ppg), sophomore Demarcus Holland (7.3) and Felix (12.0).
West Virginia head coach Bob Huggins will counter with junior Juwan Staten (18.4 ppg), who was selected first team All-Big 12, and Harris (17.9) at guards, with freshman Devin Williams (8.8 ppg, 7.3 rpg) and juniors Remi Debo (7.3) and Kevin Noreen (1.8) at the forwards.
Look for sophomore Terry Henderson (11.8), who made his first game appearance since the loss at Texas, to see plenty of action as will junior guard Gary Browne (6.1) and freshmen Nathan Adrian (5.5) and Brandon Watkins (2.5).
Action begins Wednesday with No. 8 Oklahoma State (20-11, 8-10 Big 12) taking on No. 9 Texas Tech (14-17, 6-12 Big 12) at 7 p.m. followed by No. 7 Baylor (21-10, 9-9 Big 12) and No. 10 TCU (9-21, 0-18 Big 12) at 9:30.
Thursday’s action starts at 12:30 p.m. with No. 4 Iowa State (23-7, 11-7 Big 12) and No. 5 Kansas State (20-11, 10-8 Big 12) facing off with No. 1 Kansas (23-8, 14-4 Big 12) taking on the winner of OSU and TTU at 3 p.m.
No. 2 Oklahoma (23-8, 12-6 Big 12) kicks off the second session with a 7 p.m. showdown with the winner of Baylor/TCU with No. 3 Texas and No. 6 WVU closing out the quarterfinal round at 9:30.
Semifinal action will take place at 7 p.m. and 9:30 p.m. on Friday, March 14, with the championship game, and automatic berth into the NCAA tournament, slated for a 9 p.m. tipoff on Saturday, March 15.
* This will be the eighth meeting between WVU and Texas with the Longhorns holding a 4-3 series advantage.
* West Virginia won both meetins in 2012-13, 60-58 in Morgantown and 57-53 in overtime in Austin.
* The series began in 1973 with an 80-79 WVU victory in the Far West Classic in Portland, Ore.
* Texas had won nine of 10 after defeating WVU on Feb. 15, but the Longhorns have dropped four of their last six, including a 59-53 setback at the hands of No. 9 seed Texas Tech.