West Virginia men’s basketball defeated TCU at home, 76-67, surviving the Horned Frogs to get one game closer to the second seed in the Big 12 Tournament.
The Mountaineer victory inches Bob Huggins ever closer to an historic landmark, as the victory is the 899th for the WVU coach. The win also gave a flash of the future of Mountaineer basketball as a freshman from Fairmont emerged as the star for WVU — Jalen Bridges.
“We’re asking him to do a lot of different things….A year ago, he was on the second team, there wasn’t the pressure because he wasn’t gonna play in a game because he was redshirting,” Huggins said. “Whereas now, he is not just going to get in, but he’s an integral part of what we do.”
The Bridges-Derek Culver tandem started hot out of the gate, helping West Virginia get to a double-digit lead less than eight minutes into the game. WVU kept building, and got out in front by as many as 16 during the half.
While WVU was making shots on its end, TCU struggled. The Horned Frogs made just four field goals in the first half — 18.2 percent, to be exact — and got half of their points from the free throw line. Things were especially ugly early on for TCU, as the squad made just one bucket out of 13 in an 11-minute span.
Because of this, WVU stayed on top, and took a 14-point lead into halftime.
The Horned Frogs started to get their offense going in the second half, rebounding with a 53.1-percent shooting clip. That allowed them to threaten the Mountaineer lead, even getting as close as seven points to tying it up with about five minutes to go.
“Jamie [Dixon] is a really good coach, I think you’ve got to give him a lot of credit, and give his players a lot of credit,” Huggins said. “They’ve got a bunch of guys that can make shots, and when we let down, they made shots, and then we fumbled balls, and we had how many scoring opportunities and we didn’t score.”
As TCU tried to extend the game with fouls, WVU was making its free throws and ultimately sealed the win.
Bridges had a breakout game, adding 22 points and 12 rebounds — both career highs — to lead the Mountaineers. Culver was also a force for WVU, adding 17 points and eight boards.
“I would say that as the season went on, I have definitely gotten way more comfortable out there,” Bridges said. “The speed of the game has slowed down a little bit to me, now I’m just taking what comes to me. I’m not trying to force nothing, I’m out there just being as active as possible trying to do everything I can to help my team win.”
Sean McNeil took a while to get going offensively, and made just one three-pointer in six tries. He did finish in double figures with 14 points, however, along with Miles McBride, who added 10.
The Mountaineers were tough defensively on Horned Frog leading scorer RJ Nemhard, holding him to just five points.
Three Horned Frogs finished with double-digits in his place — Jaedon Ledee (20 points), Mike Miles (15) and Kevin Samuel (12).
WVU improves to 11-5 in the Big 12 and 18-7 overall. With a win in the regular season finale against Oklahoma State on Saturday, the Mountaineers lock up a second seed in the Big 12 Tournament. That contest tips off at 2 p.m. on either ESPN or ESPN2.