Oscar Tshiebwe played the worst game of his young West Virginia career and several of his teammates shared in the struggle as the 17th-ranked Mountaineers continued to play inept basketball on the road in a 67-60 overtime loss at TCU.
West Virginia (19-8, 7-7 Big 12) destroyed the Horned Frogs by 32 points when the teams played in Morgantown last month, sending TCU into a downward spiral.
The Frogs (15-12, 6-8) entered Saturday having lost seven of their past eight games, but it turned out hosting the Mountaineers was the perfect solution for their woes. West Virginia is now 1-15 on the road in the Big 12 since the start of last season.
“This is a game we should have won,” West Virginia coach Bob Huggins said in his postgame radio interview. “I’m tired of saying it and tired of watching it. It’s frustrating.”
TCU center Kevin Samuel, a non-factor in his team’s 81-49 loss in Morgantown, led the way with 19 points and eight rebounds. He also dominated defensively with five blocked shots.
Samuel, guarded by Tshiebwe during Tshiebwe’s 15 minutes on the floor, was a perfect 7 of 7 from the field.
“If one of the bigs don’t guard anybody and his man goes 7-for-7, why play him?” Huggins asked.
Horned Frogs guard Desmond Bane, the Big 12’s leading scorer, instead played distributor with 10 assists. TCU finished with nine assists as a team when it lost at WVU Coliseum on Jan. 14.
Guard RJ Nembhard, who added 16 points, was one of the primary beneficiaries of Bane’s generosity.
Meanwhile, West Virginia’s offense got almost nothing from Tshiebwe, who has been the favorite to be the Big 12’s freshman of the year for most of the season.
Tshiebwe was held scoreless until making one of two free throws with 1:05 left in regulation. It was the lone point for Tshiebwe, who was also uncharacteristically quiet under the backboard with five rebounds. He finished 0-for-2 from the field.
Tshiebwe’s struggles might have been a footnote if West Virginia’s guards were able to pick up his slack. They did not.
Saturday was the cherry on top of a terrible season of three-point shooting, with West Virginia going 2 of 17 (12 percent) from downtown.
Already trending to be the worst three-point team of Huggins’ coaching career, the Mountaineers have dipped all the way down to 29 percent. Only 18 teams in the country are shooting worse, and seven of them are in the SWAC or MEAC — two leagues that regularly produce 16-seeds in the NCAA tournament.
Taz Sherman was the only Mountaineer to make a three, going 2 of 5 from outside on his way to 16 points. Derek Culver, who came off the bench with Huggins starting a smaller lineup for the second straight game, led West Virginia with 18 points.
The Mountaineers looked in complete control, building a 10-point lead with 3 minutes left in the first half. But TCU ended the half on an 8-0 run, setting the stage for a back-and-forth second half.
The Horned Frogs didn’t make a field goal for the final 4:59 of regulation, but West Virginia failed to take advantage on multiple occasions. Miles McBride could have tied the game at 51 with a conventional three-point play, but missed the free throw.
On the next possession, Sean McNeil sent a pass intended for Tshiebwe in the post out of bounds.
The possession after that, Culver missed a pair of free throws.
Sherman had a potential go-ahead jumper with 6 seconds left in regulation, but it was off the mark and corraled by Bane, who had a fast-break opportunity at the other end. The Mountaineers appeared lucky to reach overtime, with Bane’s potential go-ahead layup waved off by referee John Higgins, who called him for an offensive foul.
West Virginia failed to take advantage of its new lease on life, with a shot clock violation on the first possession of overtime successfully setting the tone for all that followed.
TCU built a six-point lead before Sherman drained a three to make it 63-60 with 1:09 left.
West Virginia got the stop it needed on the other end and forced a miss on the following possession. But 6-5 TCU guard Jaire Grayer grabbed an offensive rebound to keep the possession alive, then found Samuel for a layup that effectively sealed the game with 28 seconds left.
West Virginia visits Texas (16-11, 6-8) for a 7 p.m. tip on Monday night.