No. 20 WVU closes regular season at Texas
MORGANTOWN — No. 6 Kansas (24-6, 13-4 Big 12), which captured its 14th consecutive regular season title, will again be the top seed when the Big 12 Tournament gets underway on Wednesday, March 7, 2018, in Kansas City, Mo.
But, the No. 2 seed won’t be decided until Saturday when No. 20 West Virginia (22-8, 11-6 Big 12) and No. 12 Texas Tech (22-8, 10-7 Big 12) conclude their regular season contests with games against Texas (17-13, 7-10 Big 12) and TCU (21-9, 9-8 Big 12), respectively.
“Sure,” head coach Bob Huggins explained when asked if he talked about the consequences surrounding Saturday’s noon tipoff on ESPN. “I don’t want them to ever come to me and say they weren’t told. We tell them everything.”
A victory and WVU will go into tournament play as the No. 2 seed and will face the winner of the No. 7 and No. 10 seeds at 6 p.m. on Thursday, March 8. A game which would feature Oklahoma and Iowa State as of right now.
“Generally speaking, they (the players) know everything,” continued Huggins. “In fact we have a room where they can go in at any time and see what their seed is – both in the Big 12 and NCAA – and what happens if they were to lose to a team that they are expected to beat.”
The Mountaineers’ last encounter with the Longhorns turned into a 35-point rout (86-51), but a victory over the Old Gold and Blue would go a long way in taking Texas off the bubble for a berth into the NCAA Tournament, giving the rematch even more meaning.
Senior Jevon Carter led four players into double digits for WVU, finishing with a game-high 22 points, eight assists and four rebounds. Sophomore James ‘Beetle’ Bolden chipped in 19 while senior Daxter Miles Jr. added 15.
Sophomore Sagaba Konate contributed an impressive double-double of 10 points and 14 rebounds in his first matchup with the Longhorns’ Mo Bamba – a sure fire bet to be drafted into the NBA in June, finishing with six blocked shots and three assists.
Bamba, who hauled down 13 rebounds and blocked four shots, led a trio of Texas players that scored nine points each – Kerwin Roach II and Jacob Young.
West Virginia blew open a 10-0 halftime advantage (32-22) by shooting 65.6 percent from the floor (19-of-29) from the floor – 72.7 percent from the arc (8-of-11) – over the final 20 minutes.
The Mountaineers, despite giving up several inches per man near the basket, outrebounded Texas, 45-29, including a 14-6 edge on the offensive glass which led to 22 second-chance points.
But, that was then and the now finds a Texas squad that would like nothing better than to put a damper on the Old Gold and Blue’s Big 12 seeding while locking up an invitation to March Madness.
“I think they changed some things when they had some injuries,” added the head coach. “But, you really have to be careful about changing to many things this late in the season.”
One of those injuries involve seven-foot freshman center Mo Bamba, who is not listed among Shaka Smart’s probable starting five.
“He (Bamba) will play,” Huggins quipped. “They are saying that this is their play-in game for the NCAA tournament.”
Today will mark the 17th meeting between the two schools with the series advantage knotted at eight games apiece. WVU has won four in a row in the series, including a 74-72 victory in Austin last season.
Smart is in his third season at the helm at Texas and sports a 2-4 mark against West Virginia.
NOTE: Moundsville’s Chase Harler and senior Jevon Carter were selected to the 2018 Academic All-Big 12 Men’s Basketball Team while Cameron’s Logan Routt and sophomore James ‘Beetle’ Bolden were named to the Second Team.