About to hit the second leg of its three-games-in-six-days tour of Texas, now-No. 10 West Virginia didn’t have much time to celebrate its massive 84-82 win at No. 14 Texas on Saturday.
Probably about as long as a bus ride from Austin to Fort Worth.
WVU coach Bob Huggins estimated that was between three-and-a-half and four hours as the Mountaineers continue their travels in the Lone Star State. Next up is a date at TCU on Tuesday, with tipoff scheduled for 7 p.m. The game will air on ESPN2.
It’s a rugged stretch by any estimation, and Huggins said he has kept that in mind as his team prepares for a Horned Frogs team that appears comfortable in a track meet.
“The trip was good, winning obviously made it a whole lot better,” Huggins said. “We bused three-and-a-half or four hours or so up to Fort Worth and had a little workout [Sunday]. Didn’t go real hard, but we kind of just went through their stuff and what we wanted to do. We’re going to go a little bit harder [Monday] for a little bit longer and get ready to play [Tuesday].”
West Virginia (15-6 overall, 8-4 Big 12 Conference) has found unexpected comfort away from the Coliseum, with Saturday’s 19-point rally in the second half earning the team its fifth straight road win in league play and a climb of three spots in the Associated Press poll that was released Monday.
The Mountaineers also find themselves in the midst of arguably the toughest stretch of schedule it will see all season. Tuesday will break a string of four straight games against ranked opponents since a 74-72 win at Iowa State on Feb. 2.
With the Texas tour continuing with a trip to Waco to meet No. 2 Baylor at 5 p.m. Thursday, the Mountaineers’ contest against TCU (11-9, 4-7) would seem to be the perfect candidate for a trap game. But Huggins said despite the Horned Frogs having lost seven of their last nine games, TCU brings plenty to the table to grab his team’s attention. That includes a potent transition offense.
“If you look at their prior games, they’ll run it up and down,” Huggins said. “They really shoot the ball at times — they’re a big streaky, but their young guys, the guys that [TCU coach] Jamie [Dixon] brought in can really get it going and when they get it going, they just spread you so far that they’re hard to guard.”
TCU is led in scoring by junior guard RJ Nembhard (16.8 points per game), who averaged 15 points in two games against the Mountaineers last year. Freshman Mike Miles is scoring 14.5 points per game and junior center Kevin Samuel (6-foot-11, 255 pounds) adds punch in the middle, averaging 9.1 points and 8.5 rebounds.
“[Nembhard] is playing really well,” Huggins said. “I think the thing that we’ve got to be prepared for is how hard he runs the floor. He really runs the floor, which kind of stretches everything out, gives the other guys a little more space to penetrate and kick. They’re big penetrate-and-kick guys.”
Despite it marking the first matchup between the teams this season, there’s familiarity to spare. Obviously, the teams have met twice each season since both entered the league in 2012. But, for Huggins and Dixon, the matchups go farther back, as Dixon’s tenure at Pitt (2003-2016) coincided with the first five years of Huggins’ stint with WVU in which the Mountaineers and Panthers were in the Big East Conference.
Yet Huggins sees little similarity in those Panthers teams and this Horned Frogs squad, with Dixon attempting to mold his team to the strengths of his players.
“Jamie isn’t playing the way he played at Pitt, here,” Huggins said. “They’re playing a lot faster. He was more of a half-court guy at Pitt, but [it’s] personnel dictated. He’s like all the rest of us, you try to accentuate the positive and stay away from the negative, and he’s got a bunch of guys that can really run. They’re similar to playing maybe Oklahoma State, because Oklahoma State really, really runs. These guys really run. Transition is going to be huge for us, which is another reason why [Sunday] we didn’t do very much.”
WVU sophomore point guard Miles “Deuce” McBride picked up his third Big 12 player of the week award on Monday, splitting the honor with Oklahoma State freshman Cade Cunningham.
McBride scored 17 points to go with four assists and three rebounds in the Mountaineers’ win over the Longhorns. It marked the third week in a row a WVU player earned at least a share of the award after McBride brought it home two weeks ago and junior guard Sean McNeil split the honor with Oklahoma’s Austin Reaves last week.
On Monday, Teays Valley Christian guard Josiah Davis announced he was committing to the Mountaineers.
Davis, a 6-3, 190-pound native of Kitchener, Ontario, Canada, averaged 15 points, six rebounds and three assists as a sophomore a year ago. He also had an offer from Stetson.