Finishing second in the Big 12 men’s basketball standings comes with perks at the conference tournament, and West Virginia took full advantage of them during a 86-66 victory over TCU on Thursday at Sprint Center.
The Mountaineers benefited from an extra day of rest while their opponents spent Wednesday clawing through a tiring opening-round game, and the Mountaineers profited from Wednesdays upset by the Horned Frogs.
TCU, the No. 10 seed at this event, became the surprise team of the tournament by knocking off No. 7 seed Texas Tech, but the Horned Frogs were no match for West Virginia in the quarterfinals.
The Mountaineers outplayed the Horned Frogs in seemingly every way, picking up their first victory in four tries at the Big 12 Tournament. They raced to an early lead thanks to their fullcourt press and never let up.
“That is what we do,” West Virginia coach Bob Huggins said. “We continue to pressure, and the accumulative effect is we get to their legs a little bit and they start to make mistakes and miss some shots.”
On offense, the Mountaineers won with balance. Devin Williams led the way with 18 points, Jevon Carter had 15, Tarik Phillip added 13 and Devin Williams finished with 12.
West Virginia was efficient from the field, making 30 of 54 shots, but it was at its best from three-point range, where it drained 11 of 24. Carter and Phillip both made three from the beyond the arc.
TCU was nowhere near as accurate, shooting 35 percent for the game. Guard Chauncey Collins played well enough to score a game-high 18 points, doing the majority of his damage from the free-throw line, but it wasn’t enough with his teammates lagging behind.
West Virginia and its suffocating defense had a lot to do with that. At times, it was difficult for TCU to simply inbound the ball or beat the shot clock.
“They are a really good team,” TCU coach Trent Johnson said. “They wore us down.”
TCU ended its season with a 12-21 record.
Huggins and players hope the Mountaineers continue to play this well in the semifinals, when they face Oklahoma at 8:30 p.m. Friday.
“It’s our first time being at the Big 12 Tournament getting a win,” Williams said, “so that is somewhat of an accomplishment, but we are here to win a championship. We need to use this and move forward.”
It will be a challenge. West Virginia easily defeated TCU three times this season, but suffered a pair of losses to Oklahoma.
Still, West Virginia will once again hold an advantage in terms of rest. Those are the perks that come with being the No. 2 seed at the Big 12 Tournament.
Kellis Robinett: @KellisRobinett