WVU survives Big 12 opener vs. TCU

With senior point guard Juwan Staten sidelined for the team's Big 12 Conference opener, No. 17 West Virginia knew it would be getting all it could handle on the road against TCU Saturday.

And despite trailing the entire first half, the Mountaineers were able to wear the Horned Frogs down and come away with a 78-67 win. The win gave WVU a win in its first game of conference play for the second year in a row and knocked TCU out of the ranks of college basketball's unbeaten teams with its first loss of the year.

"We weren't very good in the first half. But as the game went on, it wore on (TCU)," said head coach Bob Huggins. "They did a nice job. When we'd leave a guy they'd find him, and they did it consistently. That's the hard thing ... It's hard to guard."

WVU used a solid team effort, led by senior Gary Browne and sophomore Devin Williams, to work its way back after trailing by as many as 10 points at times during the first half.

Without Staten, the team's senior point guard and the calming force that had been such a huge factor in the Mountaineers being as effective as they have been up to this point in the season on the offensive end, the Mountaineers just weren't able to get on the right page in the first half.

WVU trailed TCU 7-0 within the first few minutes and turned the ball over on each of its first three possessions of the game.

The Mountaineers eventually settled down once they got into the middle portion of the opening half of play. Between turning the ball over four times and missing four consecutive shots from the field, the Horned Frogs went through a stretch of more than six minutes without scoring a basket and allowed West Virginia to get back into the game. After battling back from deficits the entire half, a few buckets late by Jaysean Paige and Jevon Carter sent the Mountaineers into the locker room trailing 32-30.

"I told them at halftime, 'We couldn't play any worse and we're down by two,'" Huggins said on his radio show after the game. "We missed eight layups in the first half, didn't make free throws, passed it terribly and didn't guard very well and we still found a way to hang in there."

The fist glimpse of that overall balance was found early in the second half as the Mountaineers charged into the lead, and ended up leading for nearly 14 minutes in the second half of action. After freshman Jevon Carter and sophomore forward Brandon Watkins came up big as WVU worked its way back in the first half, it was West Virginia's other freshman, guard Daxter Miles, who was able to keep things rolling by picking up a few crucial steals and making some plays when the game could have gone either way as Browne and Williams warmed up for their big second-half turnarounds.

The two combined to score just two points in the first half, but Browne’s 16 points and Williams’ 12 points and seven rebounds in the final 20 minutes allowed the Mountaineers to pull away. Browne and Williams both had to sit on the bench for stretches due to foul trouble in a game where there were 61 fouls and 66 free throw attempts.

"(Browne) sat a long time and he came back and responded," Huggins said. "He was outstanding. He made huge shots for us.

"Devin Williams was back to being my guy again. He got every rebound. That's what Dev's got to do, to me, that's Dev's future. He's got to go and rebound every ball."

WVU was able to carry that late first-half spark into the second half, as the Mountaineers’ full-court pressure became a big factor in helping them turn things around against an upstart TCU team. The WVU defense forced 10 turnovers in the second half, and turned those turnovers into 12 points.

And the thing Huggins was impressed with was that it was a total team effort in Staten's absence. For the eighth time this season, 10 players scored for the Mountaineers and several players took their turns in being someone West Virginia was able to turn to when it was struggling or needed someone to make a play to help extend the lead.

"We sit here and talk about Gary and Devin, but what about the job Jevon Carter did keeping us in the game? Then (Miles) makes two big steals, and Watkins was another guy who made a huge difference," Huggins said. "You can sit here and talk about a couple guys all you want, but I think this really was a great team win."

WVU will stay in Texas for its next Big 12 game, as the Mountaineers will take on Texas Tech.

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