Mountaineers Move Past Texas Christian Via Effort
MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – West Virginia brought it in the 82-66 victory over TCU.
For all the things the No. 20 Mountaineers have lacked, they checked the majority of the effort and enthusiasm boxes in this one. There was hustle in nearly every facet, the team showcasing such for a full 40 minutes for the first time in recent memory. That followed a challenge from head coach Bob Huggins, who asked his players to play five hard minutes at a time before being subbed.
Huggins didn’t get that from Sags Konate early, and showed he meant business by yanking the shot blocker for the final 17-plus minutes of the first half. The message was sent, Huggins getting among the best efforts of the season from Dax Miles and the bench, which outscored TCU 38-8 behind the 16 points from Teddy Allen and the 14 from Beetle Bolden, who was a reserve as Miles got the start for the first time in five games dating to the loss to Kentucky.
The senior guard responded, playing a quality 27 minutes while scoring 13 points on 5-of-8 shooting. Bolden was also excellent, with three assists against zero turnovers while knocking down a pair of three-pointers and multiple jumpers off the bounce. Add in Jevon Carter’s nine points and nine assists and the 11 points from Wes Harris, and it was as solid all-around performance in again slowing the skid following the upset loss to Oklahoma State on Saturday.
“I feel better about today. I still don’t feel better about Saturday,” Huggins said. “We have prided ourselves since I got back here on being a microcosm of our state: Hard-working, never-give-up, compete like crazy and seemingly face more obstacles than anybody else and still find ways of success. We weren’t doing that. We would play hard for a little bit and we’d stop.
“My message was we were going to play hard or not play. You can go home. I don’t care. We were better playing hard than not. I think some of them didn’t believe me and I would take them out and sit them. Maybe next time they will believe me.”
Konate seemed to understand the situation in the second half, finishing with four blocks and five rebounds in helping anchor a defense that held a Horned Frogs team averaging 85 points per game to two points off their season-low of 64 set against Kansas. TCU was outshot, outrebounded, outplayed and outhustled. West Virginia finished with advantages in points off turnovers (16-8) and second-chance points (20-17) while also hitting 11-of-12 free throws, including all 10 in the second half.
“We took things away from them,” Huggins said. “They are a great passing team and I thought we really took things away from them. They didn’t pass the ball, whip it around. We talked about getting up the line and making them pass away from the basket. Then we guarded their back cuts.
“We don’t shoot it great. We don’t pass it well. We have to play hard. We have to make things happen with our defense. We want people to want the game to get over because they are tired of us. We have to play hard. It’s pretty simple. If you go in, play hard – which I thought Teddy played hard – and compete, then you’re going to play.”
It was, by any measure, a solid follow after the Oklahoma State debacle, one in which the Mountaineers dropped a second game to a Big 12 bottom feeder in remaining more than a game back of first place Texas Tech. But this game also mimicked the up-and-down play of West Virginia this season as the Mountaineers had their own issues at the outset.
WVU struggled in transition and fast break defense early, with TCU getting numerous run-outs for easy scores that led to an early 13-5 deficit after West Virginia gave up eight easy points in the paint over the first seven minutes of play.
Once it started to slow Texas Christian’s outlet passes and breaks to the bucket, the game settled into more a halfcourt set which was controlled by WVU. Slowly, the Mountaineers pulled even on a series of jumpers from Bolden and Allen. The former hit for 10 points in a stretch of little more than five minutes, helping West Virginia regain the lead for good at 21-19 with a jumper that essentially jumpstarted a 22-8 closing run that pushed the halftime lead to 38-27.
WVU built the second-half advantage to 13 at 62-49 on Lamont West’s three-pointer with 7:43 remaining and was largely able to maintain that gap before extending the edge down the stretch for the final margin. The win moves the Mountaineers (19-7, 8-5) back to within 1.5 games of Texas Tech, the Big 12 leader at 21-4, 9-3.