Mountaineers Looking for Their First Conference Win
|Points Per Game||75.7||79.3|
|Field Goal %||42.3||48.5|
|Rebounds Per Game||41.4||37.1|
|Assists Per Game||13.2||19.3|
|Blocks Per Game||4.4||3.9|
|Steals Per Game||5.1||6.9|
The West Virginia Mountaineers are looking for their first Big 12 Conference win of the season against the Texas Christian University Horned Frogs tonight in Ft. Worth, TX at 7:00 pm est on ESPNU. West Virginia is 12-1 all-time versus TCU with the lone loss coming in Ft. Worth last season.
TCU started the season ranked 20th in the country. However, an early season loss to Lipscomb bounced them out of the top 25 and without a non-conference marquee win, they were unable to climb back into the rankings.
It’s been a tough start to the conference schedule for the Horned Frogs. They won their home opener over Baylor but dropped the last two on the road to no. 7 Kansas and no. 23 Oklahoma. Their 1-2 Big 12 start is in part to the injury of point guard Jaylen Fisher missing the last three games with swelling in his right knee. It’s same knee he underwent season-ending surgery on a torn meniscus in January 2018 and TCU head coach Jamie Dixon doesn’t see him coming back in the foreseeable future.
“He’s really good, but they got a lot of guys that can make shots.” West Virginia head coach Bob Huggins said of Fisher. “I mean you substitute (Desmond) Bane for him. Fisher is really a good player though.”
After scoring 22 points against Baylor, Bane has scored 13 (KU) and 9 (OU) in the last two games.
Freshman RJ Nembhard has filled in the starting role for Fisher. Nembhard had 14 points against Kansas but had three of his four conference play turnovers in the loss to the Jayhawks.
According to Bob Huggins, Alex Robinson is the key to the TCU offense. “(Alex) Robinson does such a great job of coming off ball screens, and wherever you help from, figuring out where the ball needs to go and delivering into position where they can shoot it.”
Robinson is averaging 8.1 assists on the season and 15.3 points in the last three games.
West Virginia is off to their worst start since joining the Big 12. The Mountaineers are sitting 0-4 in conference play, but Huggins has optimism.
“Texas Tech we’re a stop, a basket or a call away from winning the game. We go to Kansas State and were up 21, we should win the game. We’re at Texas they make a fall-away three or we have a great chance to win that game. The game that we were, I guess the most out of, was the Oklahoma State game but we really weren’t out of that game. We’re just a couple of shots away from being in that game. We’re not that far away.”
One of the glaring Mountaineer short comings has been on the defensive end of the court. They continue to give up straight line drives for easy baskets.
“Stay in front their guy.” Huggs explains. “You can’t close out on the side of people. I don’t think there is anybody in the country that does more close outs than we do. At some point in time it comes down to I’m going to stop my man. It’s never the same guy. If it was just one or two guys it would be something else. Everybody is taking a turn.”
In West Virginia’s 85-77 loss to Oklahoma State Saturday afternoon, the Mountaineers were watched OSU shoot 8-17 from behind the arc.
“Oklahoma State puts you in that position because they surround you guys that can make shots.” Stated Huggins.
West Virginia expects TCU to be the same as OSU and spread them out. TCU’s Kuoat Noi is coming off a 30-point game, shooting 8-12 from three in the loss to Oklahoma Saturday. “He really shoots it. Really, really shoots it. I think he’s got to be one of the better jump shooters in the league.” Said Huggins.
For West Virginia its all about closing out on a defender in their half-court defense. “The easiest shots to make are step-in shots.” Explained Huggs We give to many people step-in shots. Is it because we over help? I don’t think so. I don’t think we’re an over help team. We don’t close out with the kind of intensity or purpose that we need to do.”
Huggins continued, giving the most recent example. “You look at probably seven or eight of the shots they made. They were step in shots and we were there. It wasn’t that we weren’t there. we were there. We just let them shoot it. Hand down. You know as the immortal Billy Hahn used to say, ‘Hands down man down.’”
“We know how, we just don’t close out properly. You can’t close out and stand there with your hands down. What the purpose of being there?” Said Huggins.
There has been a bright spot amidst this losing streak in freshman Derek Culver. He has improved each time he has come out on the floor. Culver has been the most consistent scorer and Huggins is trying to get him the ball more, but its up to Derek to be more aggressive.
“I don’t know the problem is getting him the ball, I think the problem is him doing something with other than passing when he gets it.” Stated Huggins. “Derek has always been a pass first guy. He passes it pretty well. We try to ISO him in there we get him ISO’d and we throw it in, and he sees a guy standing open and he throws him the ball and that guy hasn’t made a shot. We need him more aggressive with the ball”
Esa Ahmand and Wesley Harris sat out the last game due to a coach’s decision and are expected to play against the Horned Frogs. Huggins said that the team had one of their better practices Sunday following the game and Esa and Wes were “very good”.