MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — No. 7 West Virginia emerged from a second-half dogfight against TCU thanks to a flurry of late 3s and a dose of end-to-end energy from freshman Sagaba Konate.
Daxter Miles scored a season-high 22 points, Jevon Carter sank three 3-pointers in a span of 2:15 and Konate made three blocks while scoring a career-best 13 points as the Mountaineers beat the Horned Frogs 82-70.
Esa Ahmad scored 16 for the Mountaineers (13-2, 2-1 Big 12), who were just 3-of-17 from 3-point range before hitting 4-of-5 in the final 5:07 to break open a tie game.
Carter had gone 1-of-7 from the floor before scoring 11 of his 13 points late. After his first 3 put West Virginia ahead 68-61, he stared up at the WVU Coliseum rafters and screamed.
“I was happy to see one go in,” Carter said. “Then I felt like couldn’t miss.”
Erasing an 11-point halftime deficit, TCU (12-3, 1-2) capped a 17-6 run on Desmond Bane’s and-one free throw to pull even at 57-all.
“We came in here expecting to win,” said TCU coach Jamie Dixon, who heard chants of “Pitt still sucks!” from the WVU students. “We’re tied up, right where we wanted to be at the 7-8 minute mark, but down the stretch we didn’t make the plays.”
West Virginia snapped the deadlock with Miles scoring off an alley-oop from Tarik Phillip, followed by Konate blocking a layup attempt by Kenrich Williams. The 6-foot-9 Konate, who averages 5.1 per game, converted a conventional three-point play on the opposite end — flexing his biceps after the basket — and scored seven points in the final 9:06.
The crowd of 12,568 roared when Konate raced back in transition to swat Bane’s shot above the backboard square.
“That really got us going. That was a big-time block,” said coach Bob Huggins, who had flashbacks to his former All-American Kenyon Martin at Cincinnati. “The difference is Kenyon did it about six times a game.”
Alex Robinson led TCU with 17 points while committing five turnovers and Vlad Brodziansky scored 14. Highly touted freshman point guard Jaylen Fisher finished with six turnovers, four assists and eight points in his debut against “Press Virginia.”
The Mountaineers led 19-18 before a seven-minute stretch of patient offense and tough guarding fueled a 16-5 run. Five layups, one dunk and a 3-pointer by Lamont West solved TCU’s zone, while the Frogs suffered through a string of six turnovers.
TCU closed the half with 11 turnovers and only four assists while trailing 39-28, before making its second-half charge. Still, West Virginia finished with a 28-9 edge in pints off turnovers and dealt the Frogs their 17th consecutive game against a ranked team.
“We just picked it up at the end,” Carter said.
Konate kicks in
After averaging 9 minutes through his first 14 games, Konate played 15 on Saturday and made 5-of-7 shots, all from point-blank range. He has hit 16 of his last 20 field goal tries.
“Sags was really good,” Huggins said. “He just continues to get better and better. He really listens and tries to understand.”
Coincidentally, the three-star forward wasn’t heavily recruited out of Hermitage, Pa. West Virginia’s only competition for Konate last year came from Dixon, who was assembling his final recruiting class at Pitt.
Mountaineers assistant Ron Everhart missed the game a day after undergoing back surgery. The timetable for his return remains uncertain.
“He had a lot done,” said Huggins, who said Everhart was dealing with “a severe injury and a complicated surgery.”
Complicating matters further was Everhart’s inability to get ESPNU in his hospital room, forcing him to take in the TCU game via radio.
“He’s not in very good spirits because we don’t carry the game over at the hospital,” Huggins said.
Stats, figures, etc.
During a 16-4 run that iced the game, Dixon received a technical arguing a no-call on Konate’s two-handed block of Williams. … West Virginia improved to 10-0 against TCU since the two joined the Big 12 five seasons ago. … The Frogs’ 18 turnovers matched their season-high, but tied for the third-fewest forced by WVU this season.
Bears on deck
Baylor, which was hosting Oklahoma State for a chance to move up to No. 1 in next week’s AP poll, visits the Coliseum on Tuesday night.