West Virginia staked its claim for college basketball’s best defense with an impressive 66-54 Big 12 home win over No. 22 Texas Tech on Saturday.
Running 12 different players and wearing down the Red Raiders, the No. 17 Mountaineers claimed another impressive quad one win. This West Virginia defense isn’t quite the “Press Virginia” teams of past. They don’t turn over opponents at the same rate. But with two very good big men and guards who shut down the three, West Virginia has a strong and deep defensive group.
That was on full display on Saturday. It wasn’t a particularly pretty night for the West Virginia offense. They were only 3-for-15 from three-point range. Miles McBride was one of only two double-figure scorers for West Virginia with 22 points. And yet it felt like the Mountaineers were in total control most of the game on Saturday.
West Virginia (13-2, 2-1) just knows how to win with its deep rotation and aggressive defense.
Holding Texas Tech to 28 percent shooting, West Virginia aggressively closed out on perimeter jumpers. The Mountaineers entered Saturday’s game with the No. 2 three-point defense nationally (30 percent). Texas Tech only shot 21 percent from three.
If the Red Raiders tried to go inside, the Mountaineers had a clear advantage with its group of bigs. Oscar Tshiebwe was outstanding with seven points, four blocks and 17 rebounds. Derek Culver gave strong production with nine points and seven rebounds.
And with the number of bodies West Virginia throws at opponents on the perimeter, it’s tough to come back on them if you fall behind. Texas Tech got down early on Saturday and never recovered.
West Virginia made only three shots from distance. They still easily managed a conference win against the defending national runner-up. Different scorers will have to get hot at different times throughout the season. What the Mountaineers already have is a special defensive group. We already know they can shut down distance shooters. West Virginia can close out possessions with its strong duo of big men.
It’s difficult to tell what West Virginia’s ceiling will be by March. This is still one of the youngest rosters in the country. They have an elite defense that resembles last season’s Texas Tech. Offensively, West Virginia has enough rotation players with intriguing offensive talent to make them a long-term threat.
Saturday’s win over Texas Tech is a solid statement in the Big 12 for the Mountaineers. We might need a few more games before we find out where West Virginia might stand in the national landscape.