FORT WORTH, Texas — Juwan Staten had the flu, but TCU coach Trent Johnson was the one sick to his stomach about the way No. 17 West Virginia overwhelmed the Frogs in the second half.
Despite missing the Big 12 preseason player of the year, the Mountaineers dominated the final 18 minutes to escape the Wilkerson-Greines Athletic Center with a 78-67 victory in the league opener.
TCU (13-1, 0-1), the only Big 12 team to roll through the nonconference unbeaten, was only a 2.5-point underdog before learning of Staten’s sickness during pregame warmups. Yet West Virginia (13-1, 1-0), behind huge second-half performances by Gary Browne and Devin Williams, managed to hand the Frogs their 21st consecutive loss in league play.
“They’re not a one-man show,” said Johnson, whose team led 37-30 early in the second half. “From one through nine, they’ve got guys who have a little toughness to them.
“When it got really, really tough and we lost our poise, we didn’t respond to getting hit in the mouth.”
West Virginia looked as though it would struggle to replace Staten’s 16.2 points-per game—at least until Browne scored all 16 of his points during the final 10:59.
“The game was about to be over, so I knew I’ve got to go with a bang,” said Browne, who missed his only two first-half shots while compiling three fouls.
The senior made amends with a late-game surge during which he repeatedly used high screens to dive the lane. On one basket, he flipped a high-arching layup over two converging shot-blockers, recalling practice punishments for shots that didn’t fall.
“We do a two-on-one drill and if we miss the layup—don’t matter if they fouled you or not—you’ve got to go to the treadmill,” Browne said. “So you’ve got to get your head up and make sure you score the ball.”
Also embracing the contact was Williams, who got busy on putbacks in the second half to contribute 12 of his 14 points and seven of his eight rebounds.
“As a rebounder you’ve just got to keep going and keep going and keep going,” he said. “That’s what I’m here to do. That’s what I was recruited for.”
Kyan Anderson scored a game-high 19 for the Frogs, while Trey Ziegler had 17 before fouling out. Brandon Parrish scored 10 of his 11 in the second half but struggled to defend Browne on the screens.
Sick Staten: Presumably fine during Friday morning’s practice in Morgantown, Staten wasn’t himself Saturday.
“We knew he wasn’t feeling good this morning,” said Jaysean Paige, who scored 10 points. “When we came in the locker room before the game he was kind of laying down in there, like basically sleeping.”
Big bench: Brandon Watkins produced eight rebounds and six points in just seven minutes, and Jevon Carter provided an even larger boost. The freshman delivered seven points, six assists and six steals in a career-high 35 minutes.
Browne nears career-high: Not since Dec. 30, 2012—the night WVU downed Eastern Kentucky 74-67—had Browne produced so much offense. It was sorely needed with Staten unable to play.
“With Juwan out, we needed to be a family,” Browne said. “Like the coaches said: Are we going to stop because something happened or are we going to keep pushing?”
Bob Huggins suggested the experience of Staten missing several preseason practices might have helped the Mountaineers acclimate.
“We scrimmaged Ohio State and he didn’t play, and we were OK,” the coach said. “That’s why we’ve got those other guys.”
Cozy gym: The 4,918 announced attendance actually exceeded the listed capacity for the Wilkerson-Greines Athletic Center, a facility operated by the Fort Worth school district.
But Huggins said the small arena wasn’t an issue for his junior-college transfers and two freshmen: “This is a palace for those guys.”