The No. 10 West Virginia Mountaineers (16-6, 9-4) captured their sixth straight conference road win Tuesday night after defeating the TCU Horned Frogs (11-10, 4-8) 74-66 behind 23 points from guard Taz Sherman while forward Derek Culver registered his eleventh double double of the season with 18 points and 14 rebounds.
“I thought we played in spurts,” said West Virginia head coach Bob Huggins. “We’ve got to be not to take our foot off of people’s throats and let them off and try to get started again, but I thought we had stretches where we played really well and stretches where we didn’t play really well.”
West Virginia forward Derek Culver worked the post early and often, starting with the game's first bucket 18 seconds into the game spinning off the left side towards the baseline, and delivering with his left hand on his way to a 15-point 8 rebound first half.
TCU was able to stay within a possession nearing the midway point of the first half, but Mountaineer guard Taz Sherman checked into the game, buried back-to-back threes to extend the Mountaineers lead to eight, 22-14 at the 9:11 mark of the first half.
The Horned Frogs battled back to cut the deficit to two just inside three minutes left in the half, but freshman forward Jalen Bridges recorded the Mountaineers final three buckets, including a three off the left side to maintain a six-point lead heading into halftime, 37-31.
West Virginia came out of the break with a quick five points highlighted by beautiful ball movement to find a wide-open Sean McNeil for a three off the left wing to force a TCU timeout. McNeil grabbed a steal out of the timeout. Then, in an offensive set, Bridges hit a turnaround one-handed jump shot just inside the foul line to extend the Mountaineers lead to 13, 44-31.
TCU was efficient in the second half and constructed a 9-2 run to get back within six. However, Sherman, a native of Missouri City, TX, heated up and was working the right side of the floor with mid-range jump shots, underneath and even registered the rare four-point play with a three and the foul to give the Mountaineers a 16-point margin, their largest lead of the night with 11:15 to play in the game. Sherman tallied 15 second half points and finished the night with a game-high 23 points.
“It’s always good to come home and play in my state and have some friends and family come out. This game was the first game that my mom and little brother have been to this year. It was great to see them, and I just had to put on a show.”
Yet, TCU continued to battle and dwindled the 16-point advantage down to eight before guards Jordan McCabe and Sean McNeil hit back-to-back buckets to push the lead back to 12. Although West Virginia went nearly five minutes without a field goal, TCU could not get any closer than eight points, committing nine second half turnovers and just three offensive rebounds on the night.
“We knew we had to rebound it,” said Huggins. “We weren’t making shots - we weren’t making free throws, and they shot it pretty well. That was something that we talked about before the game, and we talked about even more at halftime.”
The Horned Frogs had an opportunity to make it a two-possession game with just over two minutes to play, but the Mountaineers made the stops at the end to a comfortable 74-66 victory.
West Virginia is back in action on Saturday as they take on the Kansas State Wildcats at 4:00 pm EST on ESPN2.
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