Texas Tech-West Virginia Preview

Big 12 play isn’t doing much to slow West Virginia from bringing out the worst in opponents’ ball handling.

That seems unlikely to change Saturday at home against last-place Texas Tech, which turns the ball over more than all but one team in the conference.

The 17th-ranked Mountaineers (17-3, 5-2) lead the nation with 22.1 turnovers forced per game and a plus-9.7 turnover differential, and they again dominated in that area in Tuesday’s 65-59 win at Kansas State with the Wildcats committing 25.

Kansas State ranks last in the league with 14.2 turnovers per game and Texas Tech (11-10, 1-7) isn’t far off at 14.0. The Mountaineers have conference opponents coughing up the ball 20.4 times per game.

"That’s what we do," said guard Jevon Carter, one of five West Virginia players who had two steals Tuesday. "We pick teams up full court, try to turn them over, make them uncomfortable. That’s just what we do."

Tarik Phillip had 12 points off the bench while Juwan Staten added 11 for West Virginia, which shot 36.4 percent but held Kansas State to its lowest percentage in conference play at 36.7.

Staten, the team leader with 14.9 points per game, matched a season low with seven shot attempts as part of a more selective trend for the senior. He’s averaging 8.0 attempts in the last four games after shooting 13.0 times through his first 15, but the recent shift has yielded just 9.0 points per game and 28.1 percent shooting.

Coach Bob Huggins downplayed any falloff Tuesday.

"Sometimes people will look and see that Wanny had 11 points and have no idea what he did for us," Huggins said. "He was terrific tonight."

West Virginia already got under the Red Raiders’ skin in Lubbock on Jan. 5. The Mountaineers won 78-67 – their fifth victory in as many regular-season tries against Texas Tech since joining the Big 12 – with a 22-8 turnover advantage.

Shift that to a hostile road environment for the Red Raiders, and coach Tubby Smith’s team could be in even more trouble.

"We just need to go out each game and do what the coaches tell us and execute," senior guard Robert Turner told the Red Raiders’ official website. "It is on us older players to lead this team and get us where we need to go."

Staten had a team-high 16 points earlier this month and is averaging 19.0 on 55.0 percent in the last three meetings, while Texas Tech’s Devaugntah Williams scored 21.

Turnovers meant little in Texas Tech’s 81-36 loss at No. 24 Oklahoma on Wednesday. The Red Raiders committed 17, but getting a shot off didn’t help much with an 11-of-52 (21.2 percent) effort.

Turner and reserve Stan Mays each had eight points in a head-scratching performance that followed last Saturday’s 78-73 home win over then-No. 9 Iowa State.

"What we are looking for is some consistency," said Smith, whose team is facing a third straight ranked opponent. "We have to remember that we have seven new faces on our team that are adjusting to Division I basketball in the toughest league in the country. There is a learning curve. We are just trying to get better each day."

It was the second time in four games that Texas Tech had been limited to 11 field goals and its lowest scoring output in the Big 12 era.

Dating to last season, Smith’s team has dropped its last nine true road games by an average of 19.1 points. Texas Tech has lost 25 straight road games against the Top 25 by an average of 23.3 points.