James Okonkwo

Sophomore forward James Okonkwo goes up for a dunk against No. 7 Texas at the Coliseum Jan. 21, 2023

A huge game awaits the West Virginia Mountaineers men’s basketball team in Lubbock, Texas. The team is set to take on the Texas Tech Red Raiders in a crucial game, looking to keep its NCAA Tournament hopes alive.

The Mountaineers (11-8, 1-6 Big 12) are ranked No. 30 in NET but are projected along with Oklahoma and Oklahoma State by Joe Lunardi as one of the last four teams outside of the current bracket.

West Virginia was ranked at one point before the conference slate but has faltered in the brutal Big 12, only winning one of seven games.

WVU got in the conference win column against the No. 14 TCU Horned Frogs on Jan. 18 with a 74-65 win but fell to 1-6 in the Big 12 with a close 69-61 loss against the No. 7 Texas Longhorns.

Texas Tech (10-9, 0-7 Big 12) started the season 10-2 but has been even worse in the Big 12, losing all seven of their games against conference opponents. It’s a rough sophomore slump for second-year head coach Mark Adams, who, after a 27-10 (10-6 Big 12) regular season and a trip to Sweet 16 in his first year, has failed to build off that momentum.

The heart of the TTU team is fifth-year forward Kevin Obanor. Obanor, who first rose to fame during Oral Roberts University’s Elite Eight run in 2021, transferred to Texas Tech ahead of last season and has now emerged as the star of the team, averaging 14.7 points and 6.3 rebounds per game.

Guards De'Vion Harmon and Pop Isaacs also are important contributors to the Red Raiders. Harmon is a senior transfer from Oregon but is no stranger to the Big 12 after spending his freshman and sophomore years playing for the Oklahoma Sooners. The Denton, Texas native is averaging 12.1 points per game and leads Texas Tech with 3.5 assists per game.

Isaacs also contributes in both facets, scoring 12.1 points per game and averaging 2.9 assists a game. French sophomore forward Daniel Batch leads the team with 6.8 rebounds per game, also scoring 9.6 points a game.

Assistant coach Josh Eilert, filling in for Bob Huggins, told the media the key to victory for the Mountaineers is to play more in control and to not beat themselves.

"We need to play with more discipline and poise …Let's not foul 30 feet from the basket and put them at the free throw line three consecutive times,” Eilert said. “Let's make them make tough shots…The grabbing of jerseys and some of the technical fouls we've been plagued with, those are things that we can control."

Tip-off is set for 7 p.m. from United Supermarkets Arena, with the game being televised on ESPNU.

Sports Writer

Jake Howard is a senior journalism major and sports communication minor at WVU, from Leesburg, Virginia. Jake is a lifelong sports fan, he covered sports on YouTube previously and now writes about sports for the DA, as well as being a member of the sports staff at U92. Jake wants to be an SID for his career.