Devin Williams

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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.

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

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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

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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.

No. 20 West Virginia beats Marshall 86-68

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CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) Jevon Carter scored 15 points and No. 20 West Virginia used its depth to wear down Marshall for an 86-68 victory Thursday night.

West Virginia (9-1) took control with a 16-1 run early in the second half to beat its intrastate rival for the fifth straight year and for the ninth time in 10 tries.

Daxter Miles Jr. added 14 points, Elijah Macon had 12, and Tarik Phillip 11.

Ryan Taylor led Marshall (3-7) with 15 points. Jon Elmore added 14, and James Kelly had 11.

Marshall had won three straight.

Kelly, Marshall’s leading scorer, went to the bench with a left knee injury early in the second half. He returned six minutes later still limping.

The Thundering Herd went nearly eight minutes between baskets and the turnovers started to pile up.

West Virginia leads the country in offensive rebounds at 18 per game and got plenty of second chances against Marshall.

The Mountaineers made four baskets off of rebounds during the key run, including Nathan Adrian’s putback for a 53-39 lead with 10:50 left.

West Virginia’s lead grew to as many as 23 points down the stretch.

The Mountaineers’ Devin Williams was held to nine points, the first time this season he failed to reach double digits. He spent most of the game in foul trouble.

Marshall made half of its 12 3-point tries over the first 13 minutes to jump ahead 26-21. But Marshall couldn’t sustain any production from its reserves, especially when Kelly and Taylor were out of the game in foul trouble. West Virginia held a 38-12 advantage in bench points.

West Virginia went on a 7-0 run late in the half and took a 35-32 lead at halftime.

TIP-INS:

West Virginia: West Virginia outrebounded Marshall 48-32, including 22 on the offensive end. … The Mountaineers matched their 9-1 start of last season, when they finished 25-10.

Marshall: Taylor became the 50th Thundering Herd player to surpass 1,000 points.

UP NEXT:

West Virginia: Home against Eastern Kentucky on Monday.

Marshall: Plays Wyoming in Las Vegas on Monday.

Big 12 Preview: Death, taxes, Kansas atop the Big 12

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Beginning in October and running up through November 13th, the first day of the regular season, College Basketball Talk will be unveiling the 2015-2016 NBCSports.com college hoops preview package.

Today, we are previewing the Big 12.

The Big 12 has been arguably the best conference in the country the last few seasons but their play in the postseason last year leaves a lot to be desired. While 70 percent of the league’s membership made the NCAA tournament last season, nobody in that group of seven advanced past the Sweet 16.

FIVE THINGS YOU NEED TO KNOW:

1. Kansas remains atop the league until proven otherwise, with or without Cheick Diallo: Kansas has won at least a share of 11 consecutive Big 12 regular season conference titles, and they return plenty of talent from last year’s team. While one-and-done freshmen Kelly Oubre and Cliff Alexander are gone, experienced players like Frank Mason, Wayne Selden and Perry Ellis return as the Jayhawks appear to be even deeper this season. One thing to monitor in terms of Kansas potentially being an elite team: the NCAA situation with freshman big man Cheick Diallo. The McDonald’s All-American was one of the best players during the senior all-star games last spring and his high motor and ability to defend the rim could put the Jayhawks over the top. He has yet to be cleared to play this season as the NCAA is looking into his high school, Our Savior New American in New York.

2. Iowa State is transitioning from Fred Hoiberg to Steve Prohm, but they still have title aspirations: Fred Hoiberg and his innovative offensive attack has moved on to the Chicago Bulls, but Iowa State is returning nearly its entire roster from a team that was a No. 3 seed last season. Now enters former Murray State head coach Steve Prohm, who is letting an experienced group do a lot of what they were doing before while also adding some of his own new wrinkles. Senior forward Georges Niang is an All-American candidate and point guard Monte Morris remains as steady as any floor leader in the nation. If the Cyclones have enough depth and their defense improves, they are also potentially an elite team.

3. Texas is moving from Rick Barnes to Shaka Smart. Can they adjust to “Havoc”?: Texas has moved on from the Rick Barnes era as they made the decision to pursue VCU’s Shaka Smart instead of Wichita State’s Gregg Marshall. Now that the popular Smart is in the fold, Texas is hoping to become a perennial power in basketball, and the most intriguing part of Shaka taking the job is how he’ll incorporate his “Havoc” style of play into the equation. Many believe that “Havoc” can’t work at the highest level of college basketball, but at the same time Smart hasn’t had this kind of talent at his disposal. Junior point guard Isaiah Taylor is back and the Longhorns have plenty of size and senior leadership.

Buddy Hield (AP Photo)
Buddy Hield (AP Photo)

4. Oklahoma returns Buddy Hield and plenty of talent: Reigning Big 12 Player of the Year Buddy Hield returned for his senior season and gives the Sooners a chance to be in the Big 12 title picture. While the Sooners will miss the play of TaShawn Thomas inside, they return most of the roster. Dependable big man Ryan Spangler is back along with the backcourt of upperclassmen Isaiah Cousins and Jordan Woodard. Cousins has drawn rave reviews from scouts and coaches this fall and could be poised for a big senior season as Hield’s second banana.

5. Baylor and West Virginia are still lurking: Baylor and West Virginia both took some lumps this offseason with key losses, but they both still have plenty of talent to win a lot of games and potentially make the NCAA tournament. The Bears still have the tremendously talented duo of Taurean Prince and Rico Gathers to work with and a team that has a lot of length on the defensive end. West Virginia has to replace Juwan Staten, but Bob Huggins has a roster that completely bought into the press that he was selling last season as they made the Sweet 16.

MORE: 2015-16 Season Preview Coverage | Conference Previews | Preview Schedule

COACH’S TAKE:

  • Favorite: “You can certainly make a strong case for a few teams, but until proven otherwise, it’s probably Kansas.”
  • Sleeper:
    • “West Virginia lost Juwan Staten but they’ll have just another chip on their shoulder. Their style of play will help them with the shorter shot clock.”
    • “Most of the guys in our office believe that Baylor has the length and talent to be a factor.”
  • Best player: “It’s close between Buddy Hield and Georges Niang but Hield gets it done on both ends of the floor. Plus, Buddy is more of an emotional leader and his big plays seem to lift his teammates.”
  • Most underrated player:
    • “Isaiah Cousins seems to be getting a lot of attention this fall — and deservedly so. He can really play.”
    • “I haven’t seen Johnathan Motley’s name in a lot of preseason stuff, but he could be a problem.”

PRESEASON BIG 12 PLAYER OF THE YEAR: Buddy Hield, Oklahoma

He won this award for real last season, so it’s only right that Hield starts the season atop this list as well. A dynamic scorer, Hield can hit 3-pointers in bunches and also got to the free-throw line 130 times last season. In addition to his scoring, Hield also led Big 12 guards in rebounding last season.

THE REST OF THE BIG 12 FIRST TEAM:

  • Georges Niang, Iowa State: As versatile as any forward in the country, Niang is looking to close out his career by knocking Kansas out of the top spot. Watching Niang play for Prohm should be a fascinating early-season study.
  • Monte Morris, Iowa State: The nation’s leader in assist-to-turnover ratio the last two seasons, now Morris gets to work with a new head coach who put Isaiah Canaan and Cameron Payne in the NBA.
  • Taurean Prince, Baylor: Arguably the nation’s best sixth man a year ago, Prince is incredibly versatile on both ends of the floor. Not many forwards around can knock down nearly 40 percent of 3-pointers and defend multiple positions the way Prince can.
  • Perry Ellis, Kansas: Before getting hurt during the tail end of Big 12 play, Ellis was playing at an incredibly high level. The Jayhawks are hoping that version of their senior forward comes to play every night this season.

FIVE MORE NAMES TO KNOW:

  • Rico Gathers, Baylor
  • Frank Mason, Kansas
  • Isaiah Taylor, Texas
  • Devin Williams, West Virginia
  • Phil Forte, Oklahoma State

BREAKOUT STAR: Jevon Carter, West Virginia

With the departure of Juwan Staten, the sophomore will be tasked with taking over full-time point guard responsibilities. After leading West Virginia in both steals and 3-pointers as a freshman, Carter is ready to be one of the focal points  for the Mountaineers.

COACH UNDER PRESSURE: Travis Ford needs to have a solid year at Oklahoma State in order to keep the heat off of him from fans. You know things are getting a little testy when both the athletic director and the school’s largest donor, T. Boone Pickens, have to publicly show signs of support.

ON SELECTION SUNDAY WE’LL BE SAYING … : The Big 12 regular season was exciting, but did these teams beat each other up too much for big tournament runs?

I’M MOST EXCITED ABOUT: Seeing how “Havoc” is going to work with the Texas players and against Big 12 defenses. This debate has been raging among college basketball types for a long time and now Shaka gets to see if his system can translate to the highest level.

FIVE NON-CONFERENCE GAMES TO CIRCLE ON YOUR CALENDAR:

  • 11/17, Michigan State vs. Kansas
  • 12/2, Oklahoma vs Villanova
  • 12/8, West Virginia vs. Virginia
  • 12/19, Baylor @ Texas A&M
  • 12/22, Kansas @ San Diego State

ONE TWITTER FEED TO FOLLOW: @RustinDodd

PREDICTED FINISH

1. Kansas: This won’t be like the Kansas team we’ve seen the past two seasons with jumbo wings in Andrew Wiggins and Kelly Oubre. The Jayhawks plan to go smaller with Frank Mason and Devonte Graham in the backcourt while Wayne Selden will likely slide over to the three.
2. Iowa State: We already know Iowa State can put points on the board but how will they look defensively during the final year this core group is together?
3. Oklahoma:  Oklahoma seems to be flying a bit under-the-radar nationally this preseason. Remember when TaShawn Thomas became eligible and the Sooners turned into a darkhorse national title contender last preseason? Essentially the same team is back, minus Thomas, and college basketball is weaker this season.
4. Baylor: Baylor’s imposing frontline is well-established but the backcourt is the key question for the Bears this season. With the loss of Kenny Chery, who does Drew pair with Lester Medford?
5. West Virginia: This West Virginia roster perfectly fits what Huggins wants to do — especially with toughness and defense — but without Juwan Staten, scoring is going to be a major concern. The new focus on officiating could also hurt the way the Mountaineers like to defend, but the 30-second shot clock should help them.
6. Texas: The (multi) million dollar question is whether Havoc works against the likes of Monte Morris and Frank Mason? How do big men like Cameron Ridley and Shaquille Cleare fit in Shaka Smart’s system? One thing will be certain: Texas will play hard and bring a lot of energy under its new coach and there’s a lot of upperclass leadership on the roster.
7. Oklahoma State: Oklahoma State’s backcourt will be among the Big 12’s most talented, as Phil Forte returns and McDonald’s All-American point guard Jawun Evans enters Stillwater. Replacing the front court of LeBryan Nash and Michael Cobbins is the bigger issue. The Cowboys have size on the roster, but not many have produced highly at the Big 12 level.
8. Texas Tech: There weren’t a lot of positives from last season’s 3-15 Big 12 showing, but the Red Raiders return 85 percent of its scoring and 86 percent of its rebounding. With some of the other teams in the league adding a lot of new pieces, Texas Tech should be more cohesive out of the gate.
9. Kansas State: Kansas State’s roster was gutted this offseason and it’s hard to say if it will be a good or a bad thing entering this season. While a lot of talent left the Wildcats, a lot of bad apples walked out the door as well. Can improved chemistry lead to a better season for Bruce Weber’s ballclub? Almost the entire roster is unproven.
10. TCU: TCU started 13-0 last season, but played a cupcake schedule, as a 4-14 conference mark brought them back down to Earth. After losing Kyan Anderson, Trey Zeigler and Amric Fields, it’s difficult to say that the Horned Frogs will be much better.