October 28, 2014

West Virginia's four-game win streak looks attractive to the outside world, but coach Bob Huggins grumbled about the offensive flaws in his team's latest ugly victory.

A fifth straight win might be more alluring since it would end the ninth-ranked Mountaineers' Big 12 tournament drought.

Second-seeded West Virginia will try to snap its conference tourney skid and remain unbeaten against 10th-seeded TCU in Thursday night's quarterfinal game in Kansas City.

The Mountaineers (24-7) are 0-3 in the Big 12 postseason since joining the league in 2012-13, and their skid stretches to 0-5 with a pair of losses in the Big East tournament the previous two seasons.

However, a late-season surge set West Virginia up with the No. 2 seed this time around and a quarterfinal matchup against a team it has beaten twice already this season, including a 73-42 rout on Feb. 13.

The matchup is even sexier for the Mountaineers with a quick look at the overall series. West Virginia owns an 8-0 record against TCU (12-20) in a history that didn't start until the teams joined the Big 12 three seasons ago.

The Mountaineers' two wins over TCU this season were quite different. They needed a second-half rally after an ugly opening 20 minutes to squeak out a 95-87 win in Fort Worth on Jan. 4, but the February victory was over quickly.

Devin Williams had 11 points and 13 rebounds in the second meeting, while Esa Ahmad and Jonathan Holton each scored 14. West Virginia shot only 37.5 percent but held the Horned Frogs to 33.3 - a similar storyline to the Mountaineers' most recent win.

Though it was offensively challenged a bit in Saturday's 69-58 victory at then-No. 19 Baylor, West Virginia held the Bears to 36.5 percent shooting.

Huggins was less than thrilled with his team's 45.7-percent, 13-turnover showing. The Mountaineers have made only 42.2 percent of their shots the last eight games, shooting 34.3 percent from 3-point range and 69 percent from the free throw line in that stretch.

"I don't think we've played that well to be honest with you," Huggins said. "We defended. Offensively, we weren't very good at all. We've gotten better, but we have to continue to get better, especially on the offensive end."

But it's West Virginia's numbers on the defensive end that have it in position to make a run. The Mountaineers lead the Big 12 by holding opponents to 66.2 points per game on 42.6 percent shooting, including 32 percent from long range, while forcing 18.1 turnovers per game - second most in the nation behind Stephen F. Austin's 18.6.

TCU, which averaged more points than only Oklahoma State in Big 12 play with 62.7, matched a season high with 26 turnovers in the February meeting while making only 9 of 23 free throws.

However, they snapped a seven-game losing streak with Wednesday's opening-round 67-62 win over seventh-seeded Texas Tech.

Chauncey Collins made 4 of 6 3-pointers for 19 points and Brandon Parrish and Vladimir Brodziansky chipped in 15 and 13, respectively.

But with his offensively challenged team set to toe the Big 12's best on the defensive side of the ball, TCU coach Trent Johnson sought help.

''Anybody want to help me out by taking Huggs and his players out?'' he asked.

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