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Postgame Report: #7 Texas Tech vs. #14 West Virginia

Tech falls short of WVU for the same reasons as last time, and Beard expresses his displeasure

Photo cc: Photo by John Weast/Getty Images

Remember in January when the Mountaineers couldn’t miss from the perimeter and somehow got sent to the line for twice as many free throws as Tech? It was tempting to simply re-post the postgame from the earlier meeting just for comedic purposes, but this game and the officiating merit discussion. It is exceedingly rare that Chris Beard gets a technical foul. Coach Beard is remarkably tactful 99.9% of the time and simply does not operate in self-destructive ways that could potentially hurt his team’s chances of winning a game. When Beard has gotten a technical, it has been because he wanted to in order to send a message. For Coach Beard to essentially concede the loss by actively efforting to get a double technical and be ejected is noteworthy. This in and of itself should cause a bit of a stir (and is), so let’s consider how Beard presumably arrived at a point where he knew he’d be sealing a loss and is likely to be fined by the league for mocking its atrocious officiating.

Rewind to January 25th. West Virginia in that game would attempt 27 free throws while Tech only attempted 12. In this game, WVU attempted 39 free throws while Tech attempted 20. (Call it 35 attempts for WVU without the free throws from Beard’s technicals.) So in the first game, WVU gets 15 more attempts than Tech at the line. In the second, WVU gets 15 more attempts. These disparities could not be more consistent, and are not insignificant. For some perspective, imagine if one team at the end of the game was allowed to shoot fifteen extra free throws and get credit for however many points they could make from that. This is in effect what has transpired now twice based on how the games were officiated, and it’s insane. It is so undeniably lopsided that even Fran Fraschilla, who doesn’t have a dog in this fight and makes a point in every game he commentates to try and praise the officials even when they don’t deserve it, couldn’t help but to publicly put out there how bad the officiating was in this game.

Fran is still being rather kind in calling this an “off night” when poor/biased officiating is in reality a regular occurrence in the Big XII, but one can only surmise how things have gotten this bad. It is likely a combination of factors, including general incompetence, a league that protects referees, and who knows what other biases or forces. At this point, a Tim Donaghy-esque scandal would surprise few, because the numbers just don’t add up to anything resembling how a game should generally go. Unless someone is prepared to make the case that WVU, of all teams, played extremely clean basketball or that Tech, of all teams, could not defend without fouling in both of these games to where WVU effectively doubled up Tech’s attempts, there’s no rationalizing this. Perhaps this is one of those “reputation precedes them” akin to when the Seattle Seahawks defense was in its prime and their secondary was allowed anything shy of tackling WRs because they were reputed as a physical team. WVU has that “physical” reputation, and the mistake that Tech has made in both games is in playing them the same way. The problem is that for whatever reason, the slightest bump on one end sends WVU to the foul line almost without fail, while WVU just isn’t whistled for reach-ins and incessant contact defensively. It is quite visible during the games, but one doesn’t even have to watch to raise an eyebrow at the FT attempts on the box score.

This is not to discredit West Virginia’s play in these games in any way. Both games featured some high-level performances overall and quality, hard-nosed basketball by both teams. It’s simply that WVU for some reason gets the benefit of the doubt on foul calls. Big XII officials have proven woefully incapable of keeping up with the caliber of play, and to WVU’s credit, they take advantage of it better. At this point, even though it’s a tactic that goes against basketball, it’s worth considering if Tech should really start coaching its players to drive the lane, create contact, and flail wildly, as this call continues to be rewarded with trips to the line, egregiously often in late-shot-clock situations. It has become something that puts a team at a comparative disadvantage if they aren’t exploiting it, which is incredibly sad. The Big XII truly needs to clean house and start over. Tech’s games against Ok St, UT, BU, the first matchup with OU, and WVU x2 have all featured officiating that cannot be deemed even passable. Tech managed to overcome it against UT and OU, but a roundly criticized awful call literally took a win from Tech against Ok St, and the officiating in the BU and WVU games was certainly a factor there. This column joked about wanting SEC officials in the Big XII/SEC challenge (which actually was an improvement), and now eagerly awaits the NCAA tournament to stop having to play in front of Big XII crews.

Time to discuss the actual basketball in this game. Terrence Shannon, Jr. ultimately put up a productive statistical day, but missed some key open shots in the game. Terrence had two airballs early on that were uncharacteristic, and there was a late open three-pointer in the game that clanged off followed by a WVU made three on the other end which proved to be a key sequence. Shannon, Jr. did have arguably the highlight of the night on an emphatic dunk he grabbed in air on the rebound and drew the foul, but he was 3-14 from the floor and 1-7 from the perimeter in this game. It wasn’t a great shooting performance, and the fact that WVU had a guard in Sean McNeil come off the bench and have a career day where he couldn’t miss to the tune of 26 points made Terrence’s misses a bit tougher to take. Mac McClung also didn’t have his best game. Mac was beaten defensively several times in the game and often didn’t close out McNeil well enough. McClung would also commit a few legitimate fouls early that put the officials in position to foul him out late on a pair of successive questionable fouls. At least it was rather amusing listening to the ESPN crew try to figure out for a solid minute during multiple replays of an inbounding situation who possibly could have committed a foul with two seconds left that once again put WVU on the line.

Marcus Santos-Silva played limited minutes in this game due to being in foul trouble throughout. He and Derek Culver both entered late with four fouls, and you can probably guess who got whistled for their fifth first. It was somewhat of a null game for Santos-Silva. Marcus played well when he was out there, but that unfortunately wasn’t for long. However, Tech did get quality minutes from much of the rest of the roster. Kyler Edwards played one of his better games. He racked up 7 rebounds, 6 assists, 3 steals and no turnovers. Perhaps most impressive considering how this game was called was that he only had one foul. Micah Peavy finally found some offense and made some good plays in the paint. If he can get that part of his game going, he’ll never leave the floor. Jamarius Burton had his second quality effort in a row as he knocked down several big shots, and he is hopefully turning a corner to start becoming the player this team wants and needs him to be. Kevin McCullar was a little quieter offensively in this one than he has been of late due to foul trouble, but contributed on the defensive end per usual to the tune of three steals and two blocks.

This game featured an Avery Benson sighting, which was welcome after he has missed a few games due to injury. Benson didn’t get a chance to do much, and was pulled after picking up a “foul” in the paint in which it certainly appeared that he was hooked from behind. Agbo, Nadolny, and Smith also saw some time. Tyreek Smith perhaps could have used a little more time, as it didn’t appear that WVU had anyone who could have matched up with him once Culver got into foul trouble, but Coach Beard opted for some small ball instead. Benson, Smith, Agbo, and Nadolny didn’t really help or hurt the team’s cause in this one, and they also allowed for several players to not get into further foul trouble in a game where whistles were beyond common. Of the starters, only Edwards was able to avoid fouls, so having a capable bench to go to in these situations likely kept Tech in the game until Beard decided that he’d seen enough from the zebras. It’s tough to fault him for that, as it’s certainly understandable at minimum. Judging by unsolicited messages sent over from friends who are fans of other Big XII schools, Beard and Texas Tech fans aren’t the only ones frustrated with the officiating. With national media who normally serve as apologists for this sort of thing also feeling compelled to criticize it, it’s a glaring issue, and it decided this game. Again. Thankfully, the NCAA tournament will be here soon enough.

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