Pushing Past

West Virginia's showcase of resiliency and overall offensive prowess pushed it to its first-ever opening Big 12 win against TCU on Saturday.

The Mountaineers got contributions from nearly every player, perhaps the most key of those from Eron Harris early and Juwan Staten late. Harris, who came off the bench because of a strain of influenza, scored 22 points, including consecutive threes shortly after entering to help WVU keep pace in a sluggish game through the first 10 minutes of play. The sophomore, who leads the Big 12 in scoring, seemed unfazed by the illness, also hitting an alley-oop dunk that showcased his athleticism.

Harris finished with eight of West Virginia's 24 field goals, including four of the seven Mountaineer threes. His step-in shooting ability was boosted by the quick triggered release at times, and was something with which the Horned Frogs never truly recovered. Staten, who scored the last nine WVU points, was dominant over the last four minutes, taking multiple foes off the bounce and utilizing spread floor space and the clock well as the Mountaineers held off the Frogs in the 74-69 win. The junior point guard finished with 15 points and a surprising seven rebounds.

Devin Williams battled in the paint, using his size and athleticism for a workmanlike 112-point, eight-rebound performance despite some late foul trouble. Gary Browne spelled Staten well, playing a controlled game that saw him tally four assists, three rebounds and a pair of steals despite lackadaisical shooting. Terry Henderson pieced together another steady-as-it-goes 10 points and seven rebounds with multiple putbacks. But the sophomore, one of the more reliable Mountaineer shooters last season, again struggled from three-point range for the fifth time in six games. Henderson made just one of five, and has missed 29 of his last 39 perimeter shots, a 25.6 percentage. That's a concern, and something to watch as the conference slate progresses.

The one glaring issue during the game was WVU's inability to guard the perimeter early. TCU hit its first seven threes, then missed 10 of its last 12 as head coach Bob Huggins went to multiple zones as well as simply waiting for the Horned Frogs to cool. Huggins also often switched defenses out of timeouts, giving TCU a varied look that took away the set play at times. The Mountaineers went to the 1-3-1 look over the final four minutes, leading to five meaningful Texas Christian points as Staten began to take control in TCU's man sets. West Virginia was also able to overcome being outshot, 47-40, in percentage by partially winning the game at the line (a nine-point edge) and via offensive rebounds, a 17-8 advantage that led to a key win in second-chance points.

Still, there are many issues to correct. West Virginia again suffered through offensive lulls and didn't execute as well as one would like at times. "We don't play through things enough and we did some dumb things," Huggins said on the MSN by IMG postgame. "Our recognition isn't very good. One time, all our guys were saying TCU was going small, so we all a play for that and we don't throw it to the right guy."

The same happened on the defensive end. TCU often set-up open threes via a double screen in the middle of the lane after dragging one WVU defender through in the Mountaineers' man-to-man sets. A Horned Frogs' guard would motion from one side of the floor to the other under the bucket, then, as the dual, offsetting screen was established, cut around the first while forcing the WVU defender to squeeze through the small opening or get around two men. That opened multiple threes for TCU in both halves, and resulted in 12 points.

Still, it's never, as Huggins noted, bad to win on the road no matter who it comes against. The Mountaineers are 9-5 overall, 1-0 in the Big 12, with the second half of the Texas swing to come against Texas Tech on Monday. So far, that's all one could hope entering the opener.

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