I’m not sure beating TCU, as improved as the Horned Frogs are this season, before 5,000 people and no students is a Herculian task for which West Virginia ought to be commended, but it’s better than the alternative.
A loss there Saturday or here in Lubbock tonight against Texas Tech would have ben and could still be bad, bad things for WVU.
So, sure, the win was better than the alternative and it was better than the preceding experiences on the road. WVU had lost six in a row on the road dating back to last season, and though this year’s team is not last year’s team, this year’s team had two bad losses on the road this season.
It’s somewhat hard to call the Missouri game a bad loss because the Tigers are good, but it was bad because WVU wasn’t very competitive in that game until some trivial moments late and Eron Harris was benched. The Virginia Tech loss was bad, not just because the Hokies aren’t a superior team, but because WVU had and wasted a big lead.
The Mountaineers didn’t have the prettiest numbers against the Horned Frogs, but they were never really in danger and never had that one costly stretch of play to cost them again away from home.
WVU trailed Missouri 29-22 late in the first half Dec. 5 before giving up a 16-2 run and falling behind by 25 points early in the second half. On the road for the first time in the season’s second game against Virginia Tech, the Mountaineers led by 17 points in the middle of the first half, but ultimately gave up a 24-8 run and lost 87-82.
“Believe it or not, I thought we went to Virginia Tech with a lot of confidence,” coach Bob Huggins said. “I thought we had confidence for Missouri. I don’t think being on the road has been the problem. I think the problem is we didn’t sustain anything. That’s been a point of emphasis. We’ve got to play 40 minutes.
“You can’t take plays off. You can’t get ahead and take shots you wouldn’t take in a close game, or be careless with the ball. We can get better at that. I think that’s the biggest thing. You don’t want to give up runs like we gave up.”
TCU had won five in a row at home before Saturday, but the Horned Frogs’ best run before a crowd of 5,038 at Daniel-Meyer Coliseum was 6-0 and came in the first half. The Mountaineers led the final 21:42 and in separate segments in the second half had five scores in a one-possession game and later three scores in a one-possession game.
The final three were all by point guard Juwan Staten, who took over and scored WVU’s last nine points in the final 4:07. TCU managed nine points in that stretch.
“The difference for us this game was we stayed true to what we try to do for 40 minutes,” Staten said. “We have mental lapses on the offensive end and the defensive ends, but I think (Saturday) for pretty much most of the game we did what we were supposed to do.”
Neat! Segue: We’re beginning to think Jonathan Holton has done what he was supposed to do to be deemed eligible by the NCAA.
That may happen as soon as today. Or not. Holton was said to be ready to make the trip with WVU Friday up until it was clear the NCAA still didn’t have an answer. I’m told he’s also been taking what the equivalent of first-team reps in practice lately.
The NCAA makes appointments to rule on cases like Holton’s and the date to rule on him is seemingly near. If it happens today, it would be almost impossible to make it here in time for the game tonight against Texas Tech, the same team that gave unbeaten Iowa State fits here Saturday. If the ruling is today or this week, Holton could debut against Oklahoma State Saturday.
Look, I was gone for two weeks, so maybe I lost my feel for being around this group. Or maybe I’m reading between the lines. Whatever. In all the conversations I had with players and others Saturday, it feels like the Mountaineers believe Holton is coming aboard soon.
“The guy’s a monster rebounder on the boards,” guard Eron Harris said. “He scores around the basket, too. It looks ugly, but it goes in every time. And he’s a shooter.”