West Virginia is turning heads over the first demanding stretch of the Big 12 Conference season the old-fashioned way — with defense and moxie.
The 12th-ranked Mountaineers will have to keep their nose to the proverbial grindstone when they host surging and defense-minded TCU on Tuesday in just another huge early-season league game in Morgantown.
The Mountaineers (13-2, 2-1) may be ahead of TCU in the AP rankings, but they are looking up at the Horned Frogs in the conference standings. That’s an aspect of Tuesday’s game that can’t be lost on West Virginia, which comes into Tuesday’s dustup after a 66-54 win on Saturday over No. 22 Texas Tech.
“We didn’t play very well,” West Virginia coach Bob Huggins told reporters on Saturday. “We threw it around too much. Twenty turnovers again. We’re not going to continue to win doing that. We’re not going to continue to win shooting 50 percent from the free-throw line.”
Despite leading the Big 12 and ranking second in the country in field-goal percentage defense, Huggins said there is still room for growth on the defensive end of the floor, too.
“We’re rotating, but we’ve got to rotate better,” Huggins said. “We’ve got to take the shorter route to people and be a little more aggressive when we get there.”
West Virginia also ranks second in the nation in 3-point field-goal percentage defense (23.3 percent), second in field-goal percentage defense (35.1) and fifth in rebounding (42.3).
The Horned Frogs (12-3, 3-0) come off a dominating 52-40 win over Oklahoma State on Saturday. TCU’s 3-0 start in Big 12 play is its best start in conference play since it went 14-0 in the Western Athletic Conference during the 1997-98 season.
TCU is tied with No. 2 Baylor atop the league standings and comes into play Tuesday with four straight wins.
Desmond Bane finished with a game-high 20 points, nine rebounds and six assists in the win over Oklahoma State. The Frogs are now 6-0 when he scores at least 20 points. He also on Saturday became the 10th player in program history to reach the 1,500 career points mark.
“It’s still early,” Bane told the Fort Worth Star-Telegram of his team’s start to the season. “We have to grow and keep getting better. It’s great to be off to a 3-0 start, but we are on a plane (Monday) to head to West Virginia, so we have to keep our eyes up and keep working.”
The Horned Frogs held Oklahoma State to 30.2 percent from the field and 10.5 percent from 3-point range (2 for 19), the lowest shooting percentages an opponent has shot against TCU this season.
It wasn’t the prettiest of wins for TCU, and Horned Frogs’ coach Jamie Dixon was quick to point out that his team still has plenty of work to do.
“That’s our message going forward,” Dixon said. “Obviously our defense was really good. Don’t let them get threes was our message. We got some work to do offensively. We’ve got to be better on Tuesday (at West Virginia).”
The Horned Frogs have never won in Morgantown, losing all six of their conference games in Morgantown since the two teams joined the league.
–Field Level Media