MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — Eron Harris made 5-of-6 shots from the floor on his way to 19 points, and West Virginia pounded TCU 71-50 on Wednesday for its largest margin of victory since Nov. 28.
Not that the outcome did much for the Mountaineers’ psyche. At 9-9 overall and 2-3 in the Big 12, WVU still has miles to go to warrant NCAA tournament inspection.
“We were in the locker room and we weren’t even very excited, because we need to get on a run and beat some big teams, win some meaningful games,” Harris said. “When we start doing that, that’s when we’re going to get happy.”
Routing the Horned Frogs (9-10, 0-6), a team that could very well go winless in conference play this season, didn’t qualify as meaningful, though it certainly rang more pleasant than Saturday’s 27-point loss to Purdue.
“Right now, to be honest, I cannot even get happy because we’re 9-9,” said senior forward Deniz Kilicli, who made his first start in four games and produced 11 points and eight rebounds in 22 minutes.
“I’m not happy with the season, but it’s all our fault. If we want to go to the NCAA tournament, I think we’ve got to beat the next 12 or 13 teams in row.”
The Mountaineers at least took an adequate first step by putting up the second-most points TCU has allowed all season. (The high remains TCU’s 76-73 win over UAB on Nov. 24.) Behind 43-percent shooting, West Virginia enjoyed its most comfortable victory since beating VMI 94-69 nearly two months ago, though afterward, coach Bob Huggins was only begrudgingly enthusiastic.
“We were in the locker room and we weren’t even very excited, because we need to get on a run and beat some big teams, win some meaningful games.” — WVU guard Eron Harris
“I guess after all these years, I have learned not to get mad when you win one, but I am not very happy,” Huggins said. “We scored a lot of points off our defense in the first half and scored very little off our defense in the second half.”
WVU made 12 steals and forced 17 turnovers but allowed the Horned Frogs to shoot 50 percent in the second half. Still, TCU never got closer than 10 points in the second half, and WVU put the game away despite struggling at the foul line. Harris made 7-of-10, but the rest of the team went 9-of-21.
West Virginia won the rebounding battle 42-30, with Dominique Rutledge adding eight boards and Kevin Noreen grabbing seven.
“Lack of size can be an excuse,” said TCU coach Trent Johnson, who lost two big men to early-season knee injuries. “When we’ve struggled, it’s been that way, where we were dominated on the glass.
“Our deficiencies as a basketball team reared their ugly head again.”
Kyan Anderson’s 19 points topped TCU, which got 11 points from reserve Connell Crossland and 10 from backup Adrick McKinney.
The teams are scheduled to rematch in Fort Worth on Feb. 9.
About 45 minutes after the game ended, Kilicli was in a hooded sweatshirt headed out of the WVU Coliseum when he and Huggins met beneath one of the baskets. The coach broke down in a defensive stance and began instructing the 6-foot-9 forward on something that had happened earlier in the evening.
Just moments before, during the coach’s postgame news conference, Huggins gave a thumbs-up review of Kilicli’s night, even though Kilicli’s 5-of-10 shooting included some point-blank misses on post moves and putbacks.
“That is as active as Deniz has been in a long time,” he said. “He was active out on the floor, he hard hedged ball-screens well and he did a lot of positive things — aside from missing layups.”
Freshman guard Terry Henderson returned after missing two games with what Huggins described as a lower back strain. Having started three games before the injury, Henderson came off the bench Wednesday, scoring four points on 1-of-6 shooting in 23 minutes. He also collected three rebounds, one assist and one steal.
“I’m good now, ready to play,” Henderson said. “I’m glad to be back out there, because I couldn’t stand to be on the sidelines.
“If I come off the bench, that doesn’t bother me. Anyway I can contribute to help this team win, that’s what I’m going to do.”