Photo cc: The Tribune Democrat/ Kathy Batten
The story of this game should be about McClung being an elite scorer, TSJ returning to form as a great all-around player, and Chris Beard using his roster depth well to get solid contributions from his bench for another huge road win. All of this is true, with the exception of the win portion. Instead of Red Raider jubilation, there’s a gut-punch of a feeling similar to the Oklahoma State game. It’s made even tougher considering that dreams of a conference title have begun to slip out of reach. That said, there was a whole lot to like out of just about everything Tech did in this game. The Red Raiders battled back from a slow start, the star players played like it, and several unexpected names stepped their game up. However, things just didn’t end the way it appeared that they would (and maybe should), due in large part to this being yet another Big XII game that was officiated extremely poorly.
Marcus Santos-Silva, Kevin McCullar, and Micah Peavy spent most of their time in the paint in this game, and all suffered significantly from the atrocious officiating. Peavy would foul out in the game, and Santos-Silva didn’t get as much playing time as usual because he was in foul trouble for most of the game. McCullar would also end up with four fouls. It is tough to fault them in this game because they would get whistled for limited contact on defense, yet on the offensive end were repeatedly hammered by WVU defenders with nary a whistle to be found. Tech’s four “bigs” (MSS, Smith, Kevin, Peav) visited line two, yes, two whole times as a group. It cannot be overstated how differently the paint was officiated for each team, and the free-throw numbers make it undeniable. Santos-Silva still put together a pretty good day in foul-limited minutes, but no one really had a chance to do much of anything around the rim on offense.
Mac McClung has become the definition of a big-time player. It was almost shocking to see his last-second shot not fall in for the win, as he ended the first half with a made bucket and had another point in the game in which he drained a three in a short shot-clock situation. Terrence Shannon, Jr., after laying a bit of an egg against Baylor, resumed his typically fine form and had a strong game across-the-board. Kyler Edwards maybe should have pulled the trigger once or twice more but had a quality game overall. Clarence Nadolny this season has seen few meaningful minutes this season. However, with Avery Benson sidelined due to injury and Jamarius Burton struggling to come into this game, Nadolny came in early and had a chance to step up. Clarence would do just that, quickly ringing up three assists, a rebound, and several high-energy plays that made an impact on both ends of the court. Burton also appeared to benefit from being pushed, as he contributed more in a bench role than he typically has in starter minutes. Both Burton and Nadolny put in efforts that might have been their best yet, and it’s very encouraging to see not one, but two players who haven’t been producing do just that. Chibuzo Agbo and Tyreek Smith also played well in limited duty.
The Red Raiders certainly played well enough to win this game. Tech won the turnover battle by a significant margin of forcing twelve to only giving up two and successfully turned those turnovers into points, but two things allowed WVU to hang around and ultimately escape with the win. Once again, a Texas Tech opponent had a banner day from the perimeter where they simply couldn’t miss, as WVU shot an absurd 63.2% on 12-19 shooting from beyond the arc. McClung heroics were enough to overcome it in Austin, but not in this one. It is worth noting that if this team’s defense has a weakness, it’s in defending the perimeter. However, that’s likely as much of a product of there being few other reliable ways to attack Tech’s stingy defense as anything. Some of the WVU threes were open looks, but many were NBA-range and/or contested attempts that should theoretically be low-percentage shots. Unfortunately for Tech, they proved to be high-percentage shots in this game, and in tandem with low-quality officiating, the Red Raiders were dealt a tough loss. Tech will look to rebound against LSU in the Big XII/SEC Challenge, and here’s hoping the SEC provides the referees.