FORT WORTH, Texas — West Virginia asked the Big 12 for basketball scheduling benevolence and this weekend the Mountaineers receive their dispensation. Granted a two-game, three-day road junket before the start of second-semester classes, WVU will save some sky miles when it opens conference play against TCU and Texas Tech.
“It saves us a trip,” said West Virginia coach Bob Huggins. “Saves us a couple nights’ sleep.”
WVU won by double-figures in Fort Worth and Lubbock last season. Thing is, West Virginia hasn’t won a true road game since, dropping six straight. That includes two losses this season at Virginia Tech and Missouri.
Have the Mountaineers learned anything from those setbacks, or at least figured out how to maintain their poise during times when games are slipping away?
“We just didn’t sustain anything,” Huggins said. “You’ve got to play for 40 minutes. You can’t take plays off. You can’t get ahead and take shots you wouldn’t take in a close game or be careless with the ball. Hopefully we’re getting better at that. You don’t want to give up runs like we gave up.”
Tipoff: Saturday 4 p.m. in Fort Worth (Big 12 Network)
Records: Riding a five-game winning streak, the Horned Frogs (9-3) are 5-1 at home, but that loss was a doozy—82-79 to not-so-mighty Longwood (308th in the RPI). West Virginia is 8-5 and has been off since last Sunday’s romp over William & Mary.
RPIs: TCU is No. 161 and WVU is No. 110.
Coach: Trent Johnson stands 20-24 in his second season at TCU. His 15-year career mark is 246-210, including successful rebuilding jobs at Nevada, Stanford and LSU.
TCU top players: Point guard Kyan Anderson plays a team-high 32 minutes per game and averages 16.5 points and 5.2 assists. He has scored 27, 25 and 21 points in his last three outings. … Forward Amric Fields suffered a severe knee injury only three games into last season, requiring a rehab that kept him out of the first three games this season as well. The 6-9 junior also missed four games in December after breaking his hand, but returned for a 17-point, 12-rebound effort in TCU’s 77-64 win over Texas Southern last week. He combines with 6-10 Karviar Shepherd (8.2 points and 7.1 rebounds) to give the Frogs more interior presence than a year ago. “When you put two 6-9 guys on the back line of a 2-3 zone, there’s not near as much room,” Huggins said. “They both make a big difference.”
WVU roster notes: While the Mountaineers rank 30th nationally in 3-point accuracy (39.6 percent), they haven’t figured out a Plan B when the perimeter shots don’t fall. “We can shoot now, we can spread defenses out,” said freshman Nathan Adrian. “But if we aren’t making our 3s we need to figure out other ways to score.” … Eron Harris (18.3 points, 44.7 percent 3-point shooter) and Juwan Staten (16.3 points, 49 percent field-goal shooter) need more help from Terry Henderson, Devin Williams and Remi Dibo. … West Virginia swept the season series last year, winning 63-50 in Fort Worth.
Line: WVU favored by 5 1/2.
Prediction: West Virginia 72-70