FORT WORTH, Texas — At one point in WVU’s Big 12 men’s basketball matchup at TCU’s Schollmaier Arena, the Mountaineers looked as relaxed as if chilling in a rocker.
Lamont West hit a 3-point shot, giving the Mountaineers a seven-point lead late in the first half and all seemed right with West Virginia’s world.
But then WVU’s world turned upside down. The Mountaineers fell off that rocker. And they simply couldn’t get up for most of the second half until a late flurry.
The host Horned Frogs closed the half first with an 11-0 run and settled for an 11-2 run. They then came out to start the second half on fire, outhustling and outplaying the nation’s No. 7 WVU team until near the end en route to an 82-73 decision before 7,368.
It was predictable TCU, now 15-5 and 3-5 in Big 12 play, would come out hungry. The Horned Frogs started the season 12-0, but lost four of their previous five. They were in last place in the Big 12. Hopes of making the NCAA tournament were dimming.
But on Monday night they turned the lights out in the second half on West Virginia, now 16-4 and 5-3. The Mountaineers, coming off a 35-point blowout of Texas, had been minted No. 7 nationally by both major polls, while TCU had tumbled completely out. WVU had been in second place within the Big 12 by itself.
"It's just improving," said TCU guard Alex Robinson, who led his team with 17 points. "We came up big today for sure."
Also, the Mountaineers had never lost to TCU in 11 previous meetings, winning five in Fort Worth. It was the first ever ESPN “Big Monday” game for the Horned Frogs.
The hosts made sure it was successful by taking control in that second half.
Sure, there were nice shots by TCU. Robinson, for instance, starting at point guard for injured Jaylen Fisher, began the second half with a reverse layup.
But the Horned Frogs’ hustle plays most stood out.
There were second chance treys, like that of Desmond Bane to make the score 42-34. There was the long pass to Bane on an out-of-bounds pass, while WVU’s Jevon Carter trailed. There were the multiple passes on sets that found wide open Horned Frogs.
Meanwhile, WVU’s offense stumbled. Mountaineer players tumbled. Time and again West Virginia players attempted to go inside to no avail.
"We had good shots," said WVU guard Jevon Carter. "We just didn't make them."
To start that second half, TCU had an 8-0 run in 1:12.
It was so bad at one point, WVU’s Bob Huggins couldn’t wait for the under-16 minute timeout to call a timeout. He did so at 15:19. Seconds later, the media timeout occurred.
Before Dax Miles got a goaltending call to record a basket, TCU had gone on a 23-3 run since the Mountaineers held that 7-point first half lead.
WVU did make a stand near the end, going on a 12-1 run at one point in a span of 3:11, but it was too late.
"It wasn't that we didn't have shots," said Huggins. "We just didn't make shots. We're just not making them."
They finished shooting 33.3 percent from the floor. And, as has been the case lately, West Virginia got off to a fast start early in a first half, but once again cooled, this time to 36.1 percent shooting. Wes Harris, who again got the start over Esa Ahmad, converted a trey and Sagaba Konate had a blocked shot of Kenrich Williams. TCU’s Kouat Noi, however, then caught fire, going 3 for 3 on shots from beyond the arc, placing the Horned Frogs up 16-9. (Noi would later be tagged for a flagrant 2 foul on Harris and ejected.)
Konate helped bring West Virginia back with a block of Shawn Olden and Williams. Also, Mountaineer forward Teddy Allen, who sat games against Kansas and Texas and played but five minutes in each of the Baylor and Texas Tech games, finally got in and chimed in.
After Williams’ blocked shot started a fast break, Allen converted and was fouled. He tied the game at 11:37 of the first. It was his first points since scoring 20 against Oklahoma.
WVU then seemed to surge, once leading by seven at 4:12 of the half, but instead of creating separation that’s when it allowed the hosts to rally and bring the crowd back into the game. Bane beat Konate to the basket for a jam and had a follow basket after the Horned Frogs hustled for a loose ball to highlight the 11-0 run. Allen snapped the streak at the foul line with 3.7 seconds left.
Robinson then seemed to hit a long heave at the half’s buzzer, but it was waved off. TCU held a 35-33 halftime lead.
"We rebounded," said TCU coach Jamie Dixon, whose team won that stat 46-40. "We got loose balls. Our biggest thing has been loose balls and I thought we got some today. And if you can do that against West Virginia you can do that against anybody."
Carter led WVU in scoring with 16 points but on 6 of 18 shooting before fouling out. Miles was 5 of 15 shooting. After Allen got his field goal, he missed his next six. Konate had 14 points and 8 rebounds with four blocks.
West Virginia will now have off until a Saturday home game against Kentucky, which dropped out of the Associated Press Top 25 on Monday for the first time since March, 2014.
NOTES: WVU’s Beetle Bolden aggravated a strained groin injury suffered against Texas in the last play of the half and did not return… George Washington High graduate and Dallas Cowboy Ryan Switzer attended the game… Carter was named to the Oscar Robertson Trophy Midseason watch list earlier Monday.