MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — Jimmy Bell Jr. stepped on the WVU Coliseum court ready to prove himself.

WVU’s 6-10, 285-pound senior forward spent the days before his team’s game against No. 14 TCU reading text messages about his upcoming matchup. Bell was tasked with battling Eddie Lampkin Jr., a similarly-sized forward for the Horned Frogs standing 6-11 and weighing a listed 263 pounds.

“I had people texting me, telling me that he was the best big in the Big 12 and I just took it personal,” Bell said. “He’s a big guy, he’s a good player, you know I played him in AAU season so we kind of already knew each other’s game, but he’s a good player. But I definitely felt like I had the advantage and I just used it and had a good night.”

Bell might have been the tipping point for WVU against TCU, logging 15 points and 12 rebounds in one of his best games as a Mountaineer so far. Lampkin fouled out with six minutes to go after scoring five points and grabbing three boards.

It’s been a long road for Bell to get to this point. First, he underwent a massive physical transformation to get in shape to play for the Mountaineers. Then, it took him several games to figure his new self out and find his spot on the floor at WVU.

Wednesday’s win was another big step for the Michigander as he helped lift the Mountaineers to their long-awaited first Big 12 win. He did it with an efficient showing on the field, shooting 5-for-7 in the contest, a strong effort on the glass that included six offensive rebounds and a greatly-improved mark from the free-throw line, making five of his six attempts.

“I’ve been working on my free throws,” Bell said. “I’ve been shooting almost 200 every day, making sure I get that down pat because we lost a few games because of free throws.”

Bell even sacrificed a jersey to get the win after getting a stain on his regular one early in the game, starting as WVU’s No. 15 and finishing as No. 43. (He later noted that he ate salmon before the game “and it came up a little bit.”)

That hard work isn’t going unnoticed by WVU’s coaching staff. Bell has seen a steady rise in his minutes share through the team’s recent games, going from 15 minutes against Kansas, to 19 against Baylor, then ultimately 25 and 28 against Oklahoma and TCU.

“Jimmy was terrific, but you know, Jimmy is a guy who really cares,” said WVU coach Bob Huggins. “He’s a guy who works really hard. You know, when you think about a guy who came in here and lost the weight that he lost in order to be able to play, his skill level has gotten so much better….He’s a guy who puts time in, and he really competes. He wants to be good. That’s because he puts time in. It’s a heck of a coincidence that the guys who put time in are better than the guys that don’t.”