Mountaineers Snap Three-Game Skid

  • By John Antonik
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  • March 01, 2014 04:37 PM
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MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – West Virginia had four players score double figures to down undermanned TCU, 81-59, Saturday afternoon at the WVU Coliseum.
Eron Harris led everyone with 18 points, but it was the 9 first-half points from walk-on guard Chase Connor that gave West Virginia a big lift when the Mountaineers were going through the motions to begin the game.
Trailing 13-7, West Virginia got three straight 3s from Connor during a 2 ½ minute stretch to take its first lead, 16-15. Then, after leading by just three at halftime, the Mountaineers used a 15-0 run early in the second half to take control of the game.
Connor’s 9 points were the first points the Shady Spring, W.Va., resident has scored this year, the freshman guard going 0 for 5 from the floor in only nine appearances this season.
“I was looking around yesterday in practice and we couldn’t hit our butt with both hands and I went over to Chase and I said, ‘Can you make a few shots for us tomorrow?’” said West Virginia coach Bob Huggins. “He said he thought he could, so I told him to turn his shirt over to get him a little bit of defense so he knew what he was doing defensively. And today he came in and he hit three big shots for us.”
The Horned Frogs couldn’t buy a basket in the second half, going 2 of 12 at one point, and freshman Devin Williams played much better after struggling to get the ball to go down from point-blank range in the first half.
Williams finished the game with a 10-point, 10-rebound, double-double after failing to reach double digits in points over his last 12 games.
“Devin came out and played like we’ve been hoping Devin would play consistently,” said Huggins. “He rebounded the ball, got hard rebounds and rebounded and scored it close. He occupied people in the post and I thought it was his best effort since Oklahoma State here, what has been a while.”
Staten had his typical 17 points, five assists and four rebounds, while Nathan Adrian contributed 14 points and six rebounds.
West Virginia played its third straight game without guard Terry Henderson, who has been sidelined by an undisclosed illness.
In the first half, it looked like West Virginia was once again going to allow its opponent to shoot better than 50 percent from the floor and score more than 80 points. The Horned Frogs, now 9-19, 0-16, were sitting at 36 points and 50 percent shooting at the break.
WVU has given up at least 83 points in each of its last three losses to Texas, Baylor and Iowa State, while those three teams combined to shoot 54.1 percent from the floor.
But the Horned Frogs didn’t come anywhere close to that, finishing the game 20 of 51 from the floor for 39.2 percent.
“We played a little 3-2, which we haven’t played and they probably hadn’t worked on it since we hadn’t played it yet,” said Huggins. “Nate did a great job on the top. I think it was a key having his size out there. It’s hard to look over him and feed the ball in the post the way they were doing in the first half.”
"This was the first time in a long time that I thought our guys got down on themselves," said TCU coach Trent Johnson.
Two other areas where West Virginia has struggled – scoring points in the paint and grabbing rebounds – also ended up on the plus side for the Mountaineers. West Virginia out-rebounded TCU 44-29 and outscored the Horned Frogs 28-24 in the paint.
Karviar Shepherd led TCU with 14 points.
An announced crowd of 11,358 watched today’s game.
This was a victory West Virginia, now 16-13, 8-8, sorely needed for a number of reasons. No. 1, it snaps a three-game losing streak with two difficult games remaining at Oklahoma next Wednesday night and then at home against fifth-ranked Kansas at the Coliseum on Saturday. No. 2, it keeps the Mountaineers ahead of Baylor and Oklahoma State in the league standings and keeps them out of one of the opening-night round games at the 2014 Big 12 tournament.
Also, it moves West Virginia closer to having a winning season in the No. 1-rated basketball conference in the country and keeps the Mountaineers in contention for a postseason berth.
“We needed to go to Virginia Tech and win, we needed to beat Gonzaga and Purdue here, and if that had happened like it was supposed to happen, then you’re looking at 19 wins and you’re not even looking at first four in and last four out,” said Huggins. “That’s what these young guys have to understand.
“Like I told our guys, I think it was (former Texas coach) Abe Lemons who was on a TV show and he popped out of a casket and he said, ‘We ain’t dead yet.’ I think that’s kind of where we are. These next two games are going to be difficult to win, but they are games that we can win. Hopefully we continue to get better.”