Texas Christian withstood the initial punch from Press Virginia and began to counter with the one-two combination of opportunistic offense and timely defensive stops to crawl back from an 11-point deficit. In less than four minutes, TCU turned a 53-42 contest into a 57-all tie with 9:47 to play. The Mountaineers had lost momentum, confidence and any semblance of offensive flow. It had also lost its juice, the energy that serves as the very salvo to any other issues. Tap into that resource, and the associated points and stops would follow.
That's exactly what West Virginia did, being fueled by the outside shooting of Jevon Carter and the interior domination of Sagaba Konate. With the game in doubt, Konate recorded three blocks and scored seven points, including three that helped WVU secure the lead for good after the tie. Two of Konate's blocks were monstrous, and it kept TCU from attacking the rim as it had in transition during the rally. He also totaled eight rebounds and 13 points, both new career highs for the true freshman.
Carter, meanwhile, had to reverse his own mojo after missing his first four three-point attempts and managing just four points over the first 34-plus minutes of game time. He did, tapping into the primary shooter's ideal that the next shot is the biggest in knocking down a trio of threes in a span of less than three minutes to finally finish off a game TCU squad. Carter's first three, with 5:07 to play, stemmed another potential Horned Frog comeback, extending the lead from 65-61 to a more manageable seven-point spread. He then canned two more, the last to put West Virginia ahead nine points with less than three minutes left.
The game, at that point, was essentially over. Feeling the upset slipping away as the Mountaineers pulled the crowd of 12,568 back into the game, TCU's bench was slapped with a technical less than 30 seconds after Carter's final three, and the eventual double-digit victory was locked. It was a rapid turn of events, and a rapt change from what was occurring mere minutes earlier, and it showcased the very driving force of this West Virginia program. The Mountaineers, at their essence, utilize energy above nearly all else to secure victories.
"We picked our energy level up, and we sat down and guarded a little bit," Daxter Miles said of the difference over the last 10 minutes of play. "We are going to need to do that at times. The Big 12 is a tough league and every game will be a good game. You have to do what you can do to get the best outcome. When we have a lot of energy good things happen."
Getting rebounds, diving on the floor for loose balls, nudging that needle so that WVU makes far more than its share of the 50-50 plays. It's the defensive strip from behind, the big men running the floor and being rewarded, the ideal of Press Virginia from its earliest inceptions three years ago. The Mountaineers have to have it, or its as though they've been unplugged and running on empty. That was the case in stretches versus both Texas Tech and TCU, and the plus-minus numbers reveal as much. When West Virginia passes the energy eye test, it passes a lot of others as well.
"It's the Big 12," Carter said. "There are a lot of ups and downs and mistakes have to be limited. But you can be too focused on doing something the right way, (worrying) about mistakes. You can't be that way. You have to come out and just play, keep playing through it. We picked it up. I don't feel we were playing our style of ball on the defensive end early in the game. We picked it up in the end."
That worked against TCU. It won't on Tuesday against a potential No. 1 team in the nation in Baylor. The Bears, who face Oklahoma State this evening, are out to a 14-0 start against one of the top schedules in the nation. BU has played - and defeated - Oregon, VCU, Michigan State, Louisville and Xavier, among others, and is 2-0 in conference with wins over Oklahoma and Iowa State. There can be no low-energy stretches, no slacked plays if the Mountaineers are to pull the upset in this one. West Virginia has to tap into that resource, and keep it flowing throughout. If it does that, it has a chance, not just in this game, but for the season as a whole.
"We just want to come in and try to knock the No. 1 seed off," Carter said. "Come in, play our game and see what happens. (The energy level) should be high. It always is when you're playing a ranked opponent. It brings out the best in you."