Bob Huggins

West Virginia head coach Bob Huggins questions a call during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game against TCU in the quarterfinals of the Big 12 conference tournament in Kansas City, Mo., Thursday, March 10, 2016. } West Virginia defeated TCU 86-66. (AP Photo/Orlin Wagner)
AP Photo/Orlin Wagner

No. 9 West Virginia rolls to 86-66 win over TCU in Big 12s

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KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) Devin Williams had 18 points and 11 rebounds to lead a balanced West Virginia attack, and the ninth-ranked Mountaineers never trailed in an 86-66 victory over TCU in the quarterfinals of the Big 12 Tournament Thursday night.

The plucky Horned Frogs gave them a tussle most of the way, though.

They trailed just 63-55 midway through the second half before a spree of 3-pointers allowed the second-seeded Mountaineers (25-7) to seize control. They pulled away in the final minutes to give coach Bob Huggins his first victory in the Big 12 Tournament since taking over his alma mater.

Jevon Carter added 15 points, Tarik Phillip had 13 and Jaysean Paige scored 12 as West Virginia moved on to the semifinals Friday against the winner of No. 6 Oklahoma and No. 21 Iowa State.

Chauncey Collins had 18 points to lead the No. 10 seed Horned Frogs (12-21), who bumped off NCAA Tournament bubble team Texas Tech in the opening round. Malique Trent added 15 points and J.D. Miller had 12.

The game amounted to a contrast in styles: West Virginia tried to play fast, TCU tried to play slow.

Early on, it was the Mountaineers who had the most success. They got hot from beyond the arc, racing to a 20-8 lead, and used all those made shots to slap on their exasperating pressure defense.

TCU did a solid job most of the game of breaking it.

The Mountaineers eventually fell into an offensive lull, and that allowed coach Trent Johnson’s team to claw back into the game. The Horned Frogs got within 29-23 late in the first half, then cut the lead to single digits again on a dunk by Miller that made it 56-47 with 14 1/2 minutes left in the game.

It took the Mountaineers heating up from the arc again to pull away.

It was 63-55 when Daxter Miles Jr. connected from right in front of West Virginia’s bench. Paige knocked down his second of the game moments later, and Miles buried another to make it 72-59 with 6:34 to go.

The Mountaineers drew away from there to wrap up their fifth consecutive win.

TIP-INS

TCU: Brandon Parrish was held to two points on 0-for-5 shooting. … Johnson fell to 0-9 in his career against West Virginia. … The Horned Frogs shot just 35 percent from the field.

West Virginia: Huggins improved to 12-0 against the Horned Frogs. … The Mountaineers finished 11 of 24 from beyond the arc. … Won despite committing 17 turnovers.

UP NEXT

TCU begins preparing for next season.

No. 3 Oklahoma bounces back, wins at No. 10 West Virginia

Oklahoma guard Buddy Hield (24) takes a shot over West Virginia guard Jaysean Paige (5) during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game, Saturday, Feb, 20, 2016, in Morgantown, W.Va. (AP Photo/Raymond Thompson)
AP Photo/Raymond Thompson
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Senior guard Buddy Hield receives many of the headlines for No. 3 Oklahoma and rightfully so, as the explosive scorer has been one of the nation’s best players this season. Add in fellow guards Isaiah Cousins and Jordan Woodard, and the Sooners have one of the best backcourt rotations in America. However this is more than just a jump-shooting team, and they’re more than a three-player unit as well.

That was all on display Saturday as the Sooners beat No. 10 West Virginia 76-62 in Morgantown. Hield scored a game-high 29 points, but the Sooners’ ability to rebound and take care of the basketball proved to be just as important against “Press Virginia.”

Oklahoma won the battle on the boards, rebounding 45 percent of their available missed shots. There wasn’t a huge edge in second-chance points (16-15 OU), but having to defend for longer stretches had an impact on West Virginia on the offensive end. West Virginia shot just 33.3 percent from the field and 7-for-21 from three, and after Jaysean Paige tied the game at 52 with 7:49 remaining the Mountaineers made just three of their final ten shot attempts.

Oklahoma found its second wind during that decisive stretch, with Hield getting going and Khadeem Lattin making some key contributions himself.

Lattin isn’t much of a scorer, and he doesn’t have to be given the weapons on that roster. But Oklahoma needs him to be a factor as a rebounder and defender if they’re to play deep into March, and that was the case against a West Virginia frontline led by Devin Williams and Jonathan Holton. Lattin finished the game with nine points, 13 rebounds (six offensive) and six blocked shots, falling one point short of his first double-double since a win over Kansas State in early January.

Ryan Spangler (eight points, six rebounds) was relatively quiet for most of Saturday’s game, but Lattin’s play more than made up for it and helped Oklahoma control the action in the paint.

The other key for the Sooners was their value of the basketball. In the first meeting Oklahoma turned the ball over 18 times in a game they won in the final seconds. Saturday, Oklahoma committed just nine turnovers, taking away an area in which West Virginia has managed to account for subpar shooting on many occasions since going to their pressure defense. Without those open-floor opportunities, West Virginia was forced to look to establish its offense in the half-court for most of the game.

And with Oklahoma being a team that looks to force opponents into making challenged shots as opposed turning them over, the Mountaineers found themselves in trouble during the game’s most important stage.

Oklahoma got its offense going during that period, making six of its final ten shots from the field and outscoring WVU 24-10 over the final 7:49. But getting out of Morgantown with the win would have proven far more difficult had Oklahoma not taken care of business defensively and on the glass.

Ellis, Lucas lead No. 6 Kansas past No. 10 West Virginia

Kansas forward Landen Lucas (33) blocks a shot by West Virginia guard Tarik Phillip (12) during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game in Lawrence, Kan., Tuesday, Feb. 9, 2016. (AP Photo/Orlin Wagner)
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In the first meeting between No. 10 West Virginia and No. 6 Kansas, the Mountaineers dominated in their 74-63 win in Morgantown. Bob Huggins’ “Press Virginia” attack forced 22 Kansas turnovers, with the Jayhawks playing far too fast and loose with the basketball while also getting out-toughed by the Mountaineers. In the rematch Kansas (20-4, 8-3 Big 12) looked far better equipped to deal with West Virginia in both of those areas, winning by the final score of 75-65.

Kansas committed 15 turnovers, with Devonte’ Graham responsible for five of them, but they did not allow West Virginia (19-4, 8-3) to use those chances to kickstart their offense. The Mountaineers scored 13 points (one fewer than Kansas, which took advantage of ten WVU miscues) off of those turnovers and did not register a single fast break points. Having to play in the half-court more than they would have liked, West Virginia could not execute at the level they did in beating Baylor Saturday.

As a result Bob Huggins’ team shot 37.3 percent from the field and 5-for-20 from beyond the arc. The Mountaineers have shown signs of being able to win games in which they don’t force a high turnover count, but that wasn’t the case at Allen Fieldhouse.

If not for West Virginia grabbing better than 34 percent of their misses and scoring 14 second-chance points, the margin is likely even greater than the ten-point outcome due to the contract in offensive execution. Kansas pushed the ball early, getting out to an 8-0 lead, and as the game wore on the Jayhawks were much better in finding quality shot opportunities. Bill Self’s team shot 56.1 percent from the field with Perry Ellis scoring 21 points to lead five Jayhawks in double figures.

The tandem of Ellis and Landen Lucas, who grabbed a game-high 16 rebounds and blocked four shots to go along with his nine points, won the battle against a WVU front court missing the suspended Jonathan Holton. Devin Williams, who went for 17 and 12 in the first meeting, finished the rematch with a respectable 14-point, nine-rebound effort but he didn’t get much help in the post from the likes of Elijah Macon and Nathan Adrian.

After having Self question their toughness in a home win over Kansas State six days ago, the Jayhawks have responded with wins over TCU and West Virginia. Obviously it’s tough to read too much into beating the Horned Frogs, because even with that game being in Fort Worth it’s one Kansas was expected to handle with ease. The Mountaineers posed a different, and far more rigorous test, and Kansas got the job done.

As a result the Jayhawks have brought West Virginia back to the pack in the Big 12 title race, making Saturday’s game at No. 3 Oklahoma even bigger than it already was.

No. 14 West Virginia takes care of No. 15 Baylor

West Virginia forward Devin Williams (41) dunks the ball during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game against Baylor, Saturday, Feb, 6, 2016, in Morgantown, W.Va. (AP Photo/Raymond Thompson)
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Not exactly noted for their ability to knock down shots from the perimeter, No. 14 West Virginia grabbed sole possession of first place in the Big 12 thanks in part to their perimeter shooting. The Mountaineers shot 7-for-14 from three and 49.1 percent from the field in a 80-69 win over No. 15 Baylor that wasn’t as close as the final margin would lead one to believe.

Bob Huggins’ team led by as much as 19 in the second half, and the way in which they did it is what makes the win so impressive. “Press Virginia” yielded just ten Baylor turnovers, but that low number didn’t matter much thanks to West Virginia’s execution offensively.

They found quality looks against Baylor’s 1-1-3 zone in the first half and made them at a good clip, forcing Scott Drew to switch to man-to-man. That change didn’t do much to slow down West Virginia either, as Daxter Miles Jr. scored 20 points and sixth man Jaysean Paige added 17 off the bench. And with Devin Williams chipping in with 16 points and seven boards in the post, outplaying Baylor’s Rico Gathers Sr. (five points, seven rebounds), West Virginia grabbed control of the game in the first half and did not relinquish it.

The usual formula for West Virginia offensively is to attack the offensive glass, as their offensive rebounding percentage (43 percent) is tops in the country. “Their best offense is a missed shot” is a familiar refrain heard when people discuss the Mountaineers, who entered the game shooting just over 30 percent from three.

They didn’t need to lean on those second chances as heavily as they normally do Saturday night, not only because of the improved accuracy but also the improved work in finding shots. The ball moved against the Baylor defense and so did the players, resulting in an offensive attack that proved tougher for the visiting Bears to stop that one would expect given the statistics entering the game.

West Virginia was already established as a contender in the Big 12, but thanks to their win Saturday night the Mountaineers are the current pace setters. With a showdown at No. 7 Kansas set for Tuesday night, this was a big win for Bob Huggins’ team to get. And with it coming in spite of a low turnover (forced) count, this should only help West Virginia in the confidence department moving forward.

No. 14 West Virginia rebounds, wins at No. 13 Iowa State

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Saturday afternoon No. 14 West Virginia put forth its worst showing of the season, losing 88-71 at Florida in a game that wasn’t all that close, and things seemed to be headed in that direction Tuesday night at No. 13 Iowa State. The Cyclones led by 15 just over ten minutes into the first half, and with point guard Monte Morris having little trouble dealing with the West Virginia press Steve Prohm’s team appeared poised to strengthen its grip on the game.

But the Mountaineers got going, with Devin Williams dominating the boards and Jaysean Paige providing some much-needed scoring off the bench, ultimately winning 81-76 at Hilton Coliseum.

Williams was outstanding in the paint for West Virginia, which once again played without the suspended Jonathan Holton, racking up 17 points and 18 rebounds (six offensive). As a team the Mountaineers rebounded 48.6 percent of their available missed shots, converting 17 offensive rebounds into 18 second-chance points. Those extra opportunities helped West Virginia make up for its lack of perimeter shooting against a team that shot 11-for-22 from three.

Offensive rebounding is a key area for Bob Huggins’ team given their shooting issues, and against an Iowa State team that lacks depth especially in the post, they were able to take advantage.

The other key for West Virginia was the play of Paige, who has emerged as one of the top sixth men in the country. After averaging 5.6 points in just over 13 minutes of action per game as a freshman, Paige has emerged as the Mountaineers’ leading scorer (13.6 ppg before Tuesday’s game). Against Iowa State he gave the Mountaineers a much-needed spark offensively, scoring a game-high 23 points with ten coming in the first half to help trim that 15-point deficit to four by halftime.

With the graduation of Juwan Staten, West Virginia was in need of someone stepping forward into the role of shot maker. They’re balanced offensively when it comes to the averages, with four players averaging double figures and Holton not far off at 9.7 ppg. But as the season’s progressed it’s become clear that Paige is the players best equipped to take (and make) key shots at key points in games.

Picked to finish sixth in the Big 12 preseason poll, West Virginia hits the halfway point tied with No. 1 Oklahoma atop the conference standings. Just a couple days after getting out-toughed at Florida, West Virginia offered up a much better response to early adversity at Iowa State, and they remain atop the Big 12 as a result.

West Virginia forward Holton suspended for rules violation

West Virginia forward Jonathan Holton (1) drives the basket while being defended by Kansas State forward Wesley Iwundu (25) during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game, Tuesday, Jan, 26, 2016, in Morgantown, W.Va. (AP Photo/Raymond Thompson)
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No. 9 West Virginia will be without an important starter Saturday afternoon when they visit Florida, as it was announced Thursday night that senior forward Jonathan Holton has been suspended indefinitely for a violation of team rules.

Holton’s averaging 9.7 points and 7.5 rebounds per game for Bob Huggins’ team, and his role at the head of the Mountaineers’ full court pressure is an important one. At 6-foot-8, Holton has the length and athleticism to make things difficult on opposing teams.

West Virginia doesn’t lack for depth in the front court, with players such as Elijah Macon and Esa Ahmad in line to see more playing time as a result of this disciplinary action. With Saturday’s game being followed by Big 12 contests against Iowa State, Baylor and Kansas, a prolonged absence for Holton could make things difficult on the Mountaineers as they look to make a run at the Big 12 title.