MORGANTOWN, W.Va. - For at least one night, West Virginia found the answer to its struggles on the basketball court.
The Mountaineers dominated the Horned Frogs in almost every facet of their game Wednesday night, eventually winning 71-50 in front of a smallish crowd of 7,094 at the Coliseum.
The win snapped a three-game losing streak for West Virginia (9-9, 2-3 Big 12) and brought the Mountaineers back to .500. TCU (9-10, 0-6) lost its sixth straight since the beginning of league play.
What it didn't do for the Mountaineers, though, was set off any sort of celebrations. After all, beating what is arguably the Big 12's worst team is no cause for giddiness. And besides, the Mountaineers have won games impressively before this season and have never been able to turn it into a sustained run.
"I don't know,'' center Deniz Kilicli said when asked if this might finally be a turning point for the Mountaineers. "We play well one game and I say something and then we lose by 30. I don't want to jinx us.''
In truth, West Virginia didn't play exceptionally well, but TCU made it easy. The Horned Frogs turned the ball over 17 times, 12 of them on outright steals by West Virginia. It was so bad that at one point late in the first half the lumbering Kilicli, all 260 pounds of him, picked Nate Butler Lind clean in the backcourt and dribbled unimpeded to the basket for a dunk.
In all, Kilicli - who started after playing just six minutes Saturday in a loss at Purdue - had 11 points and eight rebounds.
"That was as active as Deniz has been in a long time,'' coach Bob Huggins said. "Aside from missing layups, he did a lot of positive things.''
So, too, did freshman Eron Harris, who is emerging as the Mountaineers' top scoring threat of late. Harris had 19 points one 5-of-6 shooting, had two 3-pointers, two assists and a steal. He played a team-high 27 minutes.
Still, Huggins was disappointed afterward, in great part because he spread the playing time out - 12 players played and 10 had at least 11 minutes of floor time - and yet in the second half the Mountaineers lost their defensive intensity.
"We played really hard and we defended well,'' Huggins said of the first half. "Then in the second half we stopped guarding, which is what we do. We scored a lot of points off our defense in the first half and none in the second.''
Besides Harris and Kilicli, the only other double-figure scorer for West Virginia was Jabarie Hinds with 10 points. But five players scored between six and 11 points. WVU shot 43.1 percent from the floor and held a 42-30 rebounding edge.
West Virginia got 19 offensive rebounds and turned them into 16 points. Of course, getting a few offensive rebounds shouldn't be a big deal for a WVU team that shoots the ball better, statistically, than only about two dozen of the country's 347 Division I teams.
"We give ourselves a lot of chances,'' Huggins said.
Point guard Kyan Anderson was pretty much all TCU had. He scored 19 points. The Horned Frogs turned the ball over 17 times, 12 of them on steals by the Mountaineers. And although very unofficial, TCU might have set a Coliseum record for air balls while shooting 29 percent in the first half. A decent second -half shooting effort raised that mark to 43 percent.
"Our deficiencies as a basketball team reared their ugly head again,'' said TCU coach Trent Johnson.
West Virginia led 35-22 at halftime and immediately stretched the lead to 21, 49-28. TCU managed a slight rally, getting to within 11 points with eight minutes to play, but that was as close as it would get.
West Virginia pretty much dominated TCU for most of the first half, but couldn't score outside the paint and thus the margin remained fairly small. But a 13-4 run to end the half opened it up a bit. At the half, 32 of West Virginia's 35 points had come in the paint and/or off of TCU turnovers and the score was 35-22.
West Virginia next travels to Stillwater for a Saturday afternoon game against Oklahoma State, then returns home for the first of three Big Monday games this season on ESPN. The opponent this Monday is No. 3 Kansas.
Reach Dave Hickman at 304-348-1734 or dphickm...@aol.com or follow him at Twitter.com/dphickman1.
West Virginia 71, TCU 50
TCU (9-10, 0-6 Big 12)
M FG FT R A P
Daveo Boardingham 21 5-9 2-4 6 1 12
Devonta Abron 15 1-2 0-0 4 0 2
Garlon Green 30 1-6 1-2 5 4 4