MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — So this is what a fully-functioning West Virginia offense looks like. Or at least what a mostly functioning West Virginia offense looks like.
Combined with another stifling performance by the Mountaineers defense, the end result was a blowout 81-49 win over TCU on Tuesday night at WVU Coliseum.
WVU coach Bob Huggins wasn’t willing to hang a gold star on this one, noting that his team still needs to improve its passing. The Mountaineers turned the ball over nine times in the first half before sharpening considerably in the second half.
“The first half, we made terrible angle passes,” Huggins said. “That’s what we talked about at halftime. The post guys did a much better job of blocking out, and we did a much better job of feeding them the ball.”
The Horned Frogs (12-4, 3-1) entered the game as one of two teams still unbeaten in Big 12 play, but left on the dissection table.
The 12th-ranked Mountaineers (14-2, 3-1) shot 57.7 percent from the field, making Tuesday’s game the first time they’ve shot better than 57 percent and scored more than 80 points in a conference game since a 2016 win over the Horned Frogs.
In particular, sophomore power forward Derek Culver was able to slice-and-dice one of the few teams that didn’t devote its defensive gameplan to double-teaming him. Culver recorded his fourth double-double of the season with 11 rebounds and 17 points on 6 of 7 shooting from the field.
Playing with a four-guard lineup, the Horned Frogs didn’t have the personnel to double Culver down low. But he still decided to make it a matter of motivation.
“Them playing me as single-coverage, I kind of took it as disrespect, to be honest,” Culver said. “They’re almost the only team not to double me. Like I couldn’t score and they had a big man to neutralize me.
“Humbly speaking, I went out there and played my best. I played hard and had one of my better games.”
Culver was one of four Mountaineers to score in double figures, joined by Jermaine Haley (11 points), Oscar Tshiebwe (11) and Miles McBride (11).
TCU was the Big 12’s leader in three-point shooting by both volume and percentage, but outside of a brief stretch early in the second half, it did not show. The Horned Frogs came into the game having made 43 more threes than anyone else in the league, making 36.8 percent of their attempts.
The Horned Frogs were 7 of 23 (30.4 percent) from long-range against the Mountaineers.
“A lot of people probably won’t come in here and win this year,” noted TCU guard Desmond Bane, who had 13 points.
Meanwhile, West Virginia finally made something happen from outside. The Mountaineers hit 7 of their 21 three-point attempts. They’ve only made more (8) in wins over Pitt and Ohio State.
“I think we’re making strides offensively shooting the ball,” said Sean McNeil, who made 2 of 3 three-point attempts after missing his first two. “We’ve got too many good shooters to continue not to shoot the ball well. Shots are going to fall.
“It was more important for us than anything else, confidence-wise,” McNeil said. “Seeing that first one go in was huge for confidence. I had started 0 of 9 in 2020.”
By the numbers
West Virginia had 20 assists, which was its highest total since recording 21 in an 81-53 win over Austin Peay on Dec. 12. Almost half of them came from big men, with Gabe Osabuohien dishing out five and Culver finishing with four… WVU’s bench continued to be an asset, outscoring TCU by a whopping 39-6 margin… the Mountaineers outscored TCU in the pain by a 36-10 total… both TCU centers, Kevin Samuel and Jaedon LeDee, fouled out as they struggled to guard Culver and Tshiebwe.
West Virginia travels to face Kansas State (7-9, 0-4) at 2 p.m. on Saturday afternoon.
The Wildcats find themselves in the Big 12 cellar a year after winning the league’s regular-season title.