‘We’re not out of it’: Desperate for a win, Mountaineers prepare to battle TCU

Seven weeks after their originally scheduled meeting at Schollmaier Arena, West Virginia and the TCU will play their first of two regular season contests at 8 p.m. Monday in Fort Worth, Texas.

The contest will air on Big 12 Now on ESPN+.

The Mountaineers (14-12, 3-10 Big 12) are still looking for their first conference road win and are 1-7 in real road games. Since starting 2-1 in the Big 12 game, West Virginia has lost 10 of its last 11 games and starts Saturday’s 71-58 loss to No. 6 Kansas in Morgantown.

WVU still has five regular season contests and at least one in the Big 12 tournament to try to improve its postseason resume.

“If we win those five, or even four out of those five, there’s a really good shot that we get into the [NCAA] tournament and that’s our goal,” said guard Sean McNeil. “We are not trying to settle for anything. The goal is to win all five. I think four is the magic number. That’s kind of what we talked about. We still haven’t come out of it.

“There are pros and cons in this league this year. Everyone is really good, so that works in our favor. Oklahoma is 14-13 right now and is considered part of the NCAA Tournament. We are struggling, but we are not out.

WVU made just 27.9 percent of field goal attempts and 10 two-pointers against the Jayhawks, who held a 40-12 advantage in paint points and led in rebounds, 49-32.

Despite its continued offensive struggles, West Virginia trailed by one with 13 minutes left and trailed by four at 8:43. In the end, 8 of 31 shots in the second half, combined with an inability to prevent the Jayhawks from scoring near the basket, proved insurmountable. The Mountaineers also missed 15 of 19 lay-ups as close-range finishing shots continue to be a problem.

“Reality is when you need all you can get and you go the line and you miss three front ends, and we start the game missing how many 1 footers, we can’t survive this, and we’re not good enough to survive this,” WVU head coach Bob Huggins said. “We talked about it and talked about it and worked on it and worked on it. We are all spoiled to some extent, the guys we’ve met here before were pretty good.

Although his team has only won once in the past five-plus weeks, Huggins still thinks WVU has a lot to play for with at least six games remaining.

“Contrary to popular belief, we are not left out,” he said. “Kansas State lost [Saturday]. It’s eight [Big 12] losses for them. Almost everyone has seven to ten losses, except people who play to win the league. Oklahoma is 14-13 and they are still in the NCAA Tournament according to tipsters. If they can be there, we should definitely be there.

“We have to go take care of business. We are going to play three games in a week and if we lose two of the three we will probably be finished. Not really, as we’ll have three next week, but that would definitely make things much more difficult.

McNeil and Taz Sherman led the Mountaineers with 18 and 16 points, respectively, in the loss to KU. Sherman (18.5 ppg) and McNeil (13.2) are the team’s only double-digit scorers, while Jalen Bridges comes in at 9.2.

Averaging 5.1 rebounds, Bridges is the second Mountaineers to rebound ahead of Gabe Osabuohien’s 5.7. Osabuohien was scoreless with six rebounds in 15 minutes against Kansas after being benched a week ago in a loss to Kansas State. This followed an ejection for two technical fouls in the previous contest at Oklahoma State.

But Osabuohien’s return didn’t stop Kansas from making their way inside, as David McCormack finished with 19 points and 11 rebounds to lead the inside charge for KU, who also had 11. plates by Christian Braun and Jalen Wilson.

“The guys who made it here at this university are overall guys who felt it was a privilege to be here at this level, played their butts off and got better and better,” Huggins said. . “Guys who didn’t buy into that theory ended up somewhere else.

“I would give my right arm for Cam Thoroughman, because he competed. He wanted to win. He loved college, loved the state, and loved people. He wanted to represent. I’m not saying our guys aren’t doing it now. They just don’t have the same fire.

TCU (16-8, 5-7) has lost three straight and there is still work to do to make the Horned Frogs feel secure about their chances of making the NCAA Tournament. TCU had a Big 12 winning record midway through the conference season, but has lost to Texas Tech, Iowa State and Baylor since.

The most recent loss came Saturday to the Bears as the Horned Frogs couldn’t recover from a 10-point halftime deficit and fell 72-62.

TCU head coach Jamie Dixon talks to his team during a time out during a game against the Texas Tech Red Raiders at United Supermarkets Arena. Mandatory Credit: Michael C. Johnson-USA TODAY Sports

Head coach Jamie Dixon is in his sixth season with TCU after a successful tenure at Pitt for 13 seasons. The Horned Frogs qualified for the NCAA Tournament once under Dixon, in 2018.

TCU is led by 6-foot-2 guard Mike Miles Jr., who is averaging 14.7 points but shooting 36.1 percent. Damion Baugh, a 6-4 guard, and 6-7 forward Emanuel Miller are also double-digit scorers with 10.6 and 10.4 points, respectively.

Other key scorers for the Horned Frogs include: Chuck O’Bannon Jr., a 6-6 forward averaging 9.6 points; 6-11 center Eddie Lampkin Jr. (6.5 ppg); and 6-7 guard Micah Peavy (6.1).

Miller (6.4 rebounds) and Lampkin, averaging six rebounds, are the top rebounders.

Miles and Baugh each average four assists.

TCU is shooting just 29.6% on triples and less than 67% on free throws, but has limited opponents to 41.5% shooting, including less than 32% from beyond the arc.

That’s not good news for West Virginia, which is averaging 65.5 points on 37.2 percent shooting in 13 games in the Big 12. Outside of McNeil, who shot 42.6 percent of their league shots, no Mountaineer shoots 40% or better in conference action.

WVU is also passed by more than five boards on average in Big 12 contests.

“We’ve lost a decent number of games in the last 10, 12 games,” McNeil said. “It’s frustrating. I know the fans are frustrated, the coaches are frustrated and we players are frustrated, probably more than anyone. We don’t like to lose. Nobody likes to lose. But you can’t Carry this loss on to the next. You have to forget about it. It’s a brand new game. We’re trying to go out there and win. Sulking on this game won’t do anything in the next game.

“I just try to play in the present, forget the loss and do what we do. We are a good team. We just have to understand it.

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