KANSAS CITY, Mo. – For a heart-stopping half-second, Dejan Kravic thought he was too late. Then, just after the ball dropped through the bucket, the buzzer sounded. Texas Tech, after squandering a 14-point lead, had a 71-69 victory over West Virginia in the opening round Wednesday night of the Big 12 tournament.
“It’s a 40-minute game, so play for the last second,” said Kravic. “I saw the ball come toward me. I thought the clock expired, so I just put it up.”
The 6-foot-11 Kravic got in front of the West Virginia big men and rebounded Josh Gray’s desperation shot, setting up the Red Raiders (11-19) for a second-round match with Big 12 regular-season champion No. 7 Kansas Thursday.
Kravic could not remember ever getting a buzzer-beater before.
“You see it happen on TV. You never expect it to happen to you. I let out all my emotions in the locker room,” said Kravic, who totaled 10 points. “I don’t have any emotions left.”
The Red Raiders, who lost twice to West Virginia in the regular season, gave up a 14-point lead in the first half but managed to hold on for only their second victory all year away from home.
“I would rather be lucky than good,” said Texas Tech interim head coach Chris Walker. “We end up being the beneficiary of a put-back, which is great, which is rare for us, which is really good.”
Jaye Crockett’s 18 points led Texas Tech, which had lost 11 of its last 12.
West Virginia (13-19) ended its first season in the Big 12 on a seven-game losing skid, again denying coach Bob Huggins the victory he’s been needing to tie Ray Meyer for 18th on the all-time Division I winning list. Terry Henderson had 12 points for the Mountaineers, who finished with the worst record Huggins has had in 31 seasons as a head coach.
“Our credo for as long as I’ve been coaching has always been get to the ball,” said Huggins, whose 723 wins are still third among active head coaches. “It’s hard to win when you don’t get to the ball. That’s any sport, not just basketball. But for whatever reason, this is the worst that we’ve ever had at getting to the ball.”
The Mountaineers were assessed two personal fouls for taunting.
“I guess there was some talking going on,” Huggins said. “They (officials) told them to shut up and our guys said something after they were told that. But the truth of the matter is it should have never happened. You can go back and look – my guys have never done that. It’s inexcusable.”
Fighting from behind virtually the entire game, the Mountaineers cut the deficit to 64-63 on Aaric Murray’s 3-pointer and then went up 66-64 when Jabarie Hinds connected from behind the arc. Crockett’s free throw cut the West Virginia lead to 68-67 at the 1:43 mark, but with 62 seconds left, Kravic got inside for a bucket and was fouled, giving the Raiders a 69-68 lead. He missed a free throw.
Murray’s bucket was waved off when he was called for traveling, but on the other end, Kravic was called for a foul while fighting for an offensive rebound, sending Deniz Kilicli to the foul line for a one-and-one with 20.1 seconds to go. He made the first, tying the game at 69. But he missed the second and Texas Tech rebounded.
Ty Nurse hit 3 of 4 3-pointers in the opening minutes, but did not attempt another shot the rest of the game and finished with 12 points for Texas Tech. Jordan Tolbert fouled out with 11 points and Kravic totaled 10.
West Virginia got 11 points from Murray and 10 from Kilicli.