After No. 10 West Virginia pulled ahead by 16 points with 11:15 to go in the second half, TCU made things interesting on several occasions, refusing to go away on its home court.
But after all of the drama and adversity the Mountaineers have faced of late, they weren’t about to blink on Tuesday night.
The Horned Frogs whittled the lead down to eight on multiple occasions down the stretch, and though it wasn’t always easy or pretty, West Virginia got enough from junior forward Derek Culver and senior guard Taz Sherman in particular to register a 74-66 win in Fort Worth, Texas.
It marked West Virginia’s fifth win in its last six games and the sixth straight road win in Big 12 play. With the cancellation of a scheduled game at Baylor on Thursday by the league on Tuesday afternoon, the win also served as the Mountaineers’ final road game of the year.
WVU will return home to end its regular season with four straight games in the Coliseum.
“I think we’re all happy to go home,” WVU coach Bob Huggins said. “We’ve only played two games [on the current road trip] but it seems like a lot more. With practice in between — it’s just good to get home and be able to sleep in your own bed.”
Culver was dominant early, going for half of WVU’s 30 first-half points and nearly had a double-double at the break with 15 points and eight rebounds. He finished with 18 and 14.
Sherman, who returned two games ago from a groin injury and showed flashes of his pre-injury self in scoring 14 points in a win at No. 14 Texas on Saturday, caught fire on Tuesday and finished with a game-high 23 points, with 15 of those coming after halftime.
“I’m starting to feel a little looser,” Sherman said. “Just getting to my spots more. I’m able to move a little better than I did when I first got back off the injury. I’m able to play defense, slide my feet, use my quickness and speed just to get easy layups, back cuts and just get open. So, I’m feeling comfortable now, I’m feeling back to 100% so I’m good.”
The contributions of Culver and Sherman loomed even larger on a relatively quiet night for some of West Virginia’s major contributors of late. Reigning Big 12 player of the week Miles “Deuce” McBride scored 11 points on 4-of-12 shooting. Sean McNeil finished with seven points after averaging over 15 over the last five games.
Yet despite that, the Mountaineers (16-6 overall, 9-4 Big 12) led for 37:03 of playing time. Despite shooting just 57.6% from the foul line (19 for 33), 43.9% from the floor (25 for 57) and a frigid 23.8% from beyond the 3-point arc (5 for 21), WVU never trailed after the 15:02 mark of the first half.
“I think that’s the beauty of this team,” Huggins said. “We rely on Sean at times, and then when Sean struggles a little bit then we rely on Taz. We got a bunch of minutes today from Jordan McCabe trying to get Deuce off the ball so he didn’t have to spend as much time being pressured. I thought Jordan gave us really good minutes to help Deuce out today.”
WVU held a 38-30 rebounding advantage, including a 13-3 edge in offensive rebounds.
“We knew we had to rebound it — we weren’t making shots, we weren’t making free throws and they shot it pretty well,” Huggins said. “That was something we talked about before the game and we talked about it even more at halftime.”
Jalen Bridges added nine points to the WVU cause on a perfect 4-of-4 shooting. McBride, McNeil, McCabe and Emmitt Matthews combined to shoot 9 for 26 from the floor and 1 for 10 from the 3-point line.
RJ Nembhard led TCU (11-10, 4-8) with 17 points and nine assists while Kevin Samuel finished with a double-double with 11 points and 10 boards.
With the cancellation of the Baylor game, the Mountaineers will next play at home on Saturday against Kansas State. The game will tip at 4 p.m. and will air on ESPN2.