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Without Sherman, the West Virginia offense sends Mountaineers spiraling to seventh straight loss

Without leading-scorer Taz Sherman, West Virginia struggled offensively, making just four shots the entire second half, in their 60-53 loss to No. 14 Texas Tech on Saturday afternoon.

West Virginia (13-9, 2-7 Big 12) could not find offensive production all day, shooting a mere 24% from the field, while scoring a combined 21 points in the second half, as West Virginia has now lost their seventh straight game.

“Can’t win when you’re 4-for-32,” West Virginia head coach Bob Huggins said. “I thought our effort was fine. How do you win 4-for-32 — you don’t win.”

West Virginia opened the game about as well as they could have imagined. The Mountaineers jumped out to an early 7-2 lead, with Jalen Bridges; who led the offense in the first half hitting a three-pointer with 15:51 left.

Just over a minute later, Sean McNeil would hit a deep three-pointer from the right wing, then made the free throw after getting fouled, putting the Mountaineers ahead 11-2, with 14:40 left in the first half.

Texas Tech (18-5, 7-3 Big 12) would go on an 8-0 run following the McNeil three-pointer, with the Red Raiders hitting back-to-back three-pointers, followed by a wide-open layup, putting Texas Tech ahead 16-15. 

With Texas Tech leading 21-20, the West Virginia defense picked up their pressure, forcing the Red Raiders to turn the ball over three times and going on a 10-0 run over the next 3:15 to lead by nine. 

Gabe Osabuohien was all over the place during that stretch, sprinting back and forth from each wing. Osabuohien also drew a charge, and had three rebounds in the first half. The key however for Osabuohien is that he did not pick up a personal foul in the first 20 minutes. 

Bridges scored six of the 10 points, hitting a pair of three-pointers, including one he banked in off the glass. Bridges scored 16 points in the first half, going 5-for-8 from the field, while the rest of the Mountaineers went a combined 6-for-22 from the field.

Kevin McCullar would score five points in the final 1:31 for Texas Tech, with West Virginia taking a 32-26 lead into halftime. 

In the second half, the West Virginia offense struggled mightily early. Texas Tech opened the half on a 6-0 run, with West Virginia’s first two points coming at the free throw line from Dimon Carrigan, putting the Mountaineers ahead 34-32. 

“I feel like we controlled what we can control. We played hard; we were even getting stops at points. It’s just down on the other end you have to make shots,” Bridges said.

West Virginia would not score their first basket of the half until McNeil made a three-pointer off an Osabuohien offensive rebound, to tie the game at 39-39 with 13:43 remaining. 

Texas Tech would immediately go on a 7-0 run, taking a 46-39 lead, with just over 10 minutes remaining in the second half. Davion Warren made a layup and three-pointer on back-to-back possessions, but a Malik Curry layup out of a West Virginia timeout would stop the bleeding. 

Over the next five minutes, free throws would become the biggest story. Both teams combined to make 10 free throws over a 1:29 stretch late in the second half. The Mountaineers would trail by three, with 3:40 left, but would come up empty on their next two possessions with the opportunity to tie the game. 

West Virginia would call a timeout with 1:42 to play and down five. Out of the timeout, McNeil would miss a left corner three-pointer, leading to a Daniel Batcho dunk on the other end, and putting the Red Raiders ahead 57-50. 

Osabuohien would make one-of-two free throws, then hustling to steal the ball leading to a Kedrian Johnson jumper, putting the Mountaineers down four. After Texas Tech beat the West Virginia pressure, Batcho made two free throws, putting the Red Raiders ahead by seven. Paulicap was unable to finish at the rim on the other end, before Texas Tech made a free throw, extending their lead to 60-53, with 31 seconds to play. 

Ultimately, the Mountaineer offense could not execute down the stretch, leading to the seven-point victory for Texas Tech. West Virginia shot 4-for-32 in the second half, and went 1-for-11 from the field to close the game. 

“Wish I could tell you,” McNeil said on West Virginia’s offensive struggles. “Sometimes the ball just doesn’t go in, it’s tough. We let that one slip away.”

The Mountaineers now sit alone at the bottom of the Big 12 Conference with things not getting any easier as No. 20 Iowa State travels to Morgantown on Tuesday. 

Photo by Dale Sparks, All-Pro Photography

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