WVU basketball: Mountaineers win third straight
FORT WORTH, Texas -- For 31 minutes Saturday, West Virginia was outclassed on the glass at Daniel-Meyer Coliseum and had just one offensive rebound in a game that was harder than the Mountaineers needed it to be.
Then with WVU up eight points, Eron Harris, who has made a habit of personal second-half pushes lately, missed a jumper. Kevin Noreen grabbed the rebound in the middle of the paint and bounced it back to Terry Henderson, who'd made all five of his shots in the game.
He missed for the first time in four 3-point attempts, but Noreen grabbed the ball inside again and flicked it back outside again.
This time Harris made the 3 for an 11-point lead with 8:32 to go as WVU was on its way to a third straight win, 63-50, before a crowd of 5,192.
"That started a little bit of a run," Harris said. "It signified that we've just got to fight through to the end and we'll end up on top."
TCU would get as close as seven points on two occasions late, but Aaric Murray, who was a difference-maker on both ends in the second half, made a 3 on the first and Jabarie Hinds had a three-point play on the second with 3:30 remaining.
The lead would grow to be as large as 13 points.
"It's pretty simple," TCU Coach Trent Johnson said. "Physically and mentally they're a lot tougher than we are."
The win was the 722nd in the 1,000th career game for Coach Bob Huggins. It also put WVU's record at 12-11 and above .500 for the first time since a loss at Iowa State Jan. 16 dropped the Mountaineers to 8-8.
At 5-5 in the Big 12, WVU is now in sixth place in the conference standings. WVU also improved to 3-2 in Big 12 road games. Only Kansas (4-1) and Kansas State (4-2) have winning records away from home in conference play. The Mountaineers have road games remaining against both.
The Mountaineers are also 5-0 against conference teams from Texas with sweeps of Texas and TCU and a win at Texas Tech. They play the first of two games left against Baylor Wednesday in Waco and then come home to play host to Texas Tech Saturday.
The first Baylor game starts a stretch where WVU plays seven of its final eight games against teams likely in the NCAA Tournament and inside the RPI's top 50. The Mountaineers have one win (Eastern Kentucky) and nine losses against top-100 teams.
"We're finally coming together as a team," Hinds said. "We're sharing the ball well and talking to each other on the floor and I think our defense has been better and more aggressive because we started to trust each other."
Henderson had 17 points to lead the team in scoring for the first time since Jan. 5. Harris had eight of his 14 points in the second half. In the past three games, he's 4-for-15 from the floor and 1-for-9 from 3-point range in the first half and 9-for-17 and 6-for-11 in the second half.
Hinds added 12 points, four assists and four steals. Murray had seven points, six rebounds and a block, steal and assist, all in the second half.
The Mountaineers shot 51.2 percent from the floor and made 7 of 10 3-point attempts and also had 17 assists to 11 turnovers, but were outrebounded 34-23.
"We hadn't played our 2-3 (zone) since the Oklahoma loss and we lost to Oklahoma because they outrebounded us in crucial situations," Huggins said. "Am I concerned about it? I am."
WVU had a 42-34 lead with 14:34 left in the game, but TCU called a timeout and had five quick points on a 3 and a turnover. It was 44-40 when Kyan Anderson missed a 3 and Harris leaked out on the rebound and caught a long pass from Noreen for a dunk.
TCU missed and Murray posted up and scored rebounding his own miss. Murray stole the ball on the other end and Harris' 3 on the third shot of the possession made it 51-40 with 8:35 to go. It was the fifth time in 10 conference games WVU has led by at least 10 points and the third time it's happened on the road.
"I thought that was a huge play for us," Huggins said. "That was probably the backbreaker."
The Horned Frogs (10-13, 1-9 Big 12) lost three days after shocking No. 5 Kansas here and are 0-3 after beating a ranked team the past two seasons. Anderson had 16 points and Connell Crossland added 13 points and nine rebounds. Garlon Green, who scored 20 points in the win against the Jayhawks, had three against WVU on 1-for-12 shooting
TCU shot 8-for-32 in the second half and missed 14 of 16 3-point attempts after shooting 60 percent in the first half.
The Mountaineers defied another slow start to lead at halftime. They followed a 1-for-7 start and four points in eight minutes by making 9 of their last 11 shots and leading 31-28. Huggins called a timeout with 33 seconds to go and WVU used every bit of clock to work around TCU's zone and get the ball inside to Deniz Kilicli, which collapsed the zone and left Hinds open for a 3, his first in the past four games.
Both teams battled whistles throughout the first half, which saw 23 fouls and 26 free throws. Both teams had two players with two fouls and one with three, but WVU's trouble really affected things.
Dominique Rutledge had three fouls and Kilicli and Murray had two, with Murray needing just 17 seconds to do so. They combined for 23 points on 10-for-18 shooting against TCU in the home win last month. The Mountaineers had 34 points in the paint that night, their best total of the Big 12 season.
Henderson helped with the adjustment and had 15 points in a variety of ways. He made three 3s and two free throws, dropped a jumper curling of a screen and then put back a miss with a layup. He was 5-for-5 and the rest of his team was 5-for-14 for 16 points.
"It's good to be back," he said.
He was undercut against Kansas State Jan. 12 and missed two games and has come off the bench in the six since. Henderson had 16 combined points the previous two games and 19 in the four games before that.
"Whatever he did before the game he needs to do before every game," Hinds said.
The Horned Frogs led 12-7 early and would have separate stretches where they made three straight shots, but they couldn't hang onto the ball. They shot 60 percent (9-for-15) in the half, but also had 12 turnovers WVU used for 11 points.
Contact sportswriter Mike Casazza at email@example.com or 304-319-1142. His blog is at blogs.dailymail.com/wvu.