WVU basketball: Road woes end in Texas
LUBBOCK, Texas - For the entire season, the 2013-14 West Virginia Mountaineers have sought to avoid comparisons to last year's team.
There are so many bad memories, plenty of new faces and enough improvements among the returning players to make such talk invalid.
So it was that the six-game road losing streak these Mountaineers ended with Saturday's 74-69 win at TCU Saturday wasn't too concerning to the team. Players and coaches instead entered that game upset instead by the nature of the 0-2 mark in road games this season.
WVU trailed Missouri 29-22 late in the first half Dec. 5 before giving up a 16-2 run and falling behind by 25 points early in the second half. On the road for the first time in the season's second game against Virginia Tech, the Mountaineers led by 17 points in the middle of the first half, but ultimately gave up a 24-8 run and lost 87-82.
"Believe it or not, I thought we went to Virginia Tech with a lot of confidence," coach Bob Huggins said. "I thought we had confidence for Missouri. I don't think being on the road has been the problem. I think the problem is we didn't sustain anything. That's been a point of emphasis. We've got to play 40 minutes.
"You can't take plays off. You can't get ahead and take shots you wouldn't take in a close game, or be careless with the ball. We can get better at that. I think that's the biggest thing. You don't want to give up runs like we gave up."
TCU had won five in a row at home before Saturday, but the Horned Frogs' best run before a crowd of 5,038 at Daniel-Meyer Coliseum was 6-0 and came in the first half. The Mountaineers led the final 21:42 and in separate segments in the second half had five scores in a one-possession game and later three scores in a one-possession game.
The final three were all by point guard Juwan Staten, who took over and scored WVU's last nine points in the final 4:07. TCU managed nine points in that stretch.
"The difference for us this game was we stayed true to what we try to do for 40 minutes," Staten said. "We have mental lapses on the offensive end and the defensive ends, but I think (Saturday) for pretty much most of the game we did what we were supposed to do."
The Mountaineers (9-5, 1-0 Big 12) ended their losing streak away from home by winning on the road for the first time since beating TCU on Feb. 9, 2013. That was also the back end of the last road winning streak, one that started with a win here against Texas Tech. WVU plays the Red Raiders (8-6, 0-1) at 7 p.m. today.
Road wins against TCU and Texas Tech last season were part of a 6-0 record against the Horned Frogs, Red Raiders and Texas teams that were below the Mountaineers in the Big 12 standings - though a buzzer-beater by Texas Tech eliminated WVU from the Big 12 tournament last March.
The Red Raiders, led in his first season at the school by former Georgia, Kentucky and Minnesota Coach Tubby Smith, trailed No. 13 Iowa State by 15 points at home Saturday, but started the second half with a 21-6 run. The Cyclones extended the best start in school history with a 73-62 win.
"We've actually been talking about these runs and talking about playing for 40 minutes," WVU guard Eron Harris said. "Coach's motto is pretty much that we've got to go hard for 40 minutes. Teams are going to make runs. We can't control anybody on a run unless we slow our offense down and execute."
WVU did that at various points Saturday, but also faltered at times, too, and never led by more than the 49-41 margin it built early in the second half. From the 9:58 mark in the second half until Staten's run-out layup with seven seconds to go, the lead was never larger than five points, but WVU never trailed, either.
Much of the success had to do with the things the Mountaineers had been aiming to fix. TCU (9-4, 0-1) shot 51.9 percent in the first half and actually made its first seven 3-point attempts. The Horned Frogs shot just 42.3 percent in the second half and missed seven of nine 3-point shots to finish 9-for-19 from there.
The Mountaineers also outrebounded TCU 38-30 and had a 17-8 scoring edge in second-chance points, the best total there in the past five games.
Then again, WVU beat Marshall on Dec. 14, lost to Purdue on Dec. 22 and beat William & Mary on Dec. 29. Plenty of practices between those games gave Huggins time to tinker.
"I thought we got better defensively - until (Saturday)," he said. "Their post guys are pretty skilled, but we're rebounding the ball better. I think our recognition, although it still has to get so much better, is better. Our recognition for what to do - and I mean you need to know how much time is left, what the score is, what the whole situation is - I think as we get more experienced, we'll get better and better at that."
Contact sportswriter Mike Casazza at email@example.com or 30-319-1142. His blog is at blogs.dailymail.com/wvu.