MORGANTOWN, W.Va. - This is not the TCU team that we were accustomed to watching last year – a team that couldn’t make shots and had a difficult time scoring 50 points in games.
Well, this year the Horned Frogs (9-3) are making shots, getting offense from a variety of different players and have two 6-9 guys sitting in the back of their 2-3 zone that makes their defense much tougher to attack, at least that’s the way West Virginia coach Bob Huggins sees it as his team continues to prepare for its conference opener this Saturday.
“They didn’t have that kind of size a year ago,” Huggins says.
Making a huge difference this year for TCU is 6-foot-10, 225-pound freshman forward Karviar Shepherd, the school’s highest-rated recruit ever who is averaging 8.3 points and 8.6 rebounds per game so far this season. Shepherd has started all 12 games and has pulled down more than 10 rebounds in four out of his last eight contests.
Shepherd has a lot of help in the frontcourt with 6-foot-9, 220-pound junior forward Amric Fields (13.6 pgg.) alongside, giving the Horned Frogs two capable scorers close to the basket.
“They really try to run things to score it close and they play inside-out, which are the easiest shots to make,” Huggins said. “Those are like driveway shots.”
The biggest beneficiary of TCU’s newly discovered inside game has been junior guard Kyan Anderson, who leads the Horned Frogs in scoring with an average of 16.5 points per game. Anderson scored 20 in the loss to Harvard back on Nov. 30, and has since posted scoring games of 27, 25 and 21.
He is also the team’s top playmaker with 63 assists for an average of 5.3 per game.
“When you’ve got a point guard like they have who draws so much attention and creates so well, other guys get pretty good looks,” explained Huggins.
The West Virginia coach also pointed out that Brandon Parrish and Michael Williams are both shooting 40 percent from 3, which means West Virginia’s defenders will have to be aware of where they are on the wings.
TCU is already just two wins shy of last year’s win total of 11 and the Horned Frogs have wins this year over Washington State of the Pac-12 and Mississippi State of the SEC, the victory over the Bulldogs coming by 10 in Starkville. That’s not easy to do.
TCU is clearly playing at a much faster pace this year because they have the players to do so.
“They were very half-court last year and I know that’s not the way (Coach) Trent (Johnson) wants to play. That was kind of the hand he was dealt,” said Huggins.
West Virginia (8-5), meanwhile, is coming off probably its best performance of the season against William & Mary in Charleston on Dec. 29. The Mountaineers beat the Tribe by 37, getting offense across the board, including a season-high 16 from freshman forward Nathan Adrian.
Terry Henderson scored a game-high 19 and point guard Juwan Staten added 15 points with 10 rebounds and six assists. West Virginia’s leading scorer, Eron Harris, contributed 10 points against the Tribe and is currently second in the Big 12 in scoring with an average of 18.3 points per game.
Staten (16.3 ppg.) and Henderson (11 ppg.) are also averaging double digits.
This will be West Virginia’s third game on an opposing team’s home floor this season. The last two road trips didn’t turn out well for the Mountaineers - an 87-82 loss at Virginia Tech back on Nov. 12 and an 80-71 defeat at Missouri on Dec. 5.
“Believe it or not, I think we went into Virginia Tech with a lot of confidence,” said Huggins. “We went into Missouri with a lot of confidence. I don’t think going on the road was the problem. I think our problem was we couldn’t sustain anything.”
Following Saturday’s game against TCU, West Virginia will remain in Texas with a quick two-day turnaround playing Texas Tech on Monday night in Lubbock.
“It saves us a trip,” said Huggins. “It saves us a couple night’s sleep and I think that helps considerably.”
Tip off for Saturday’s TCU game is 4 p.m. and the game will be televised on the Big 12 Network, carried on 46 stations nationally.
Locally, the game can be seen on WVFX (Clarksburg), WTOV-DT2 (Northern Panhandle), WOAY (Beckley/Bluefield), WQCW (Charleston/Huntington), PCNC (Pittsburgh) and MASN (Capital region).
The Mountaineer Sports Network from IMG’s statewide radio coverage begins with the pregame show at 3:30 p.m.
Last year, West Virginia defeated TCU by scores of 63-50 in Fort Worth and 71-50 in Morgantown.
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