FORT WORTH, Texas - West Virginia's game with TCU Saturday started nothing like the Mountaineers had expected. It ended, though, in what is becoming a very familiar fashion - with Juwan Staten controlling the ball and the game.
Shaking off a wildly out-of-character hot-shooting start by the Horned Frogs, West Virginia kept within striking distance, took the lead just before halftime and never relinquished it on the way to a 74-69 win.
It was far from simply a matter of taking the lead and keeping it, however. TCU was as close as a point with 81/2 minutes to play and within a possession several times late in the game.
But as has become almost routine when the Mountaineers need plays made down the stretch, they turned to Staten. He scored WVU's final nine points.
Not bad for a guy who in the middle of that final stretch looked like he could use a breather in the worst way.
"Well, that's not the time for it,'' said Staten, who went into the game's final 10 minutes with just three points and came out with 15. "You have to fight through it when it gets down to winning time.''
The win, in front of an announced crowd of 5,038 at Daniel-Meyer Coliseum, enabled the Mountaineers (9-5, 1-0 Big 12) to get off to the type of league start they desperately needed. West Virginia plays Texas Tech Monday in Lubbock and a win there would provide a sweep of the two teams almost universally considered to be at the bottom of the Big 12 pecking order.
TCU (9-4, 0-1) has begun the same pattern as a year ago when the Horned Frogs went 9-4 in non-conference games and then 2-16 in the league.
Staten didn't win the game by himself, of course. He had plenty of help, much of it from a guy who didn't even look like he could play in the days leading up to the game.
Sophomore guard Eron Harris didn't start because he'd been sick all week and missed most of the team's practice time. But when he did get in the game, he stayed there 33 minutes, scored 22 points and made four of the five 3-pointers he attempted.
"I don't think any of us were worried that he wouldn't be able to play today, Staten said of Harris, the Big 12's second-leading scorer. "He's a competitor.''
If the Mountaineers weren't surprised by Harris, though, they were certainly shocked by what TCU did for most of the first half. The Horned Frogs made 11 of their first 15 shots and the first seven 3-pointers they attempted. This was a team that ranks next-to-last in the Big 12 in field goal percentage and has attempted and made fewer 3-pointers than any of the other league schools.
Combine that with WVU's own shooting woes - 39 percent in the first half and just 40 for the game - and it was shocking that TCU didn't run away and hide.
"I told our guys just to keep playing,'' said WVU coach Bob Huggins, who knew TCU wouldn't shoot 100 percent from long range all game. "We're supposed to be a pretty good 3-point shooting team ourselves and we didn't make any until Eron came in. You just have to keep playing.''
And the Mountaineers did. Despite the hot shooting, TCU wasn't able to pull away and even trailed several times while shooting so well. The biggest lead TCU had was 28-23, but WVU also had several three-point leads. WVU led 42-39 at halftime and then by as many as eight, 49-41, early in the second half.
TCU closed within 56-55 with 81/2 minutes to play and had the margin to two, the last time 69-67 with two minutes to play.
That's when the Mountaineers spread the floor and Staten drove for an open layup to make it 71-67. TCU took an ill-advised shot and had a turnover on its next two possessions. Staten then made another free throw with 34 seconds to play and, after the Frogs missed three shots on the other end, put the game away with a layup with 6.8 seconds on the clock.
For the most part, Staten never gave up the ball, which is kind of the idea lately.
"It's the flow of the game,'' Harris said. "For a lot of the game the flow is for him to distribute the ball. At the end, it's for him to keep the ball.''
Devin Williams had 12 points, Terry Henderson 10 and Nathan Adrian nine for the Mountaineers.
TCU got 22 points from Amric Fields and 18 from Brandon Parrish. After making those first 11 shots, the Frogs went 14 of 38 (36.8 percent) the rest of the game.
Reach Dave Hickman at 304-348-1734 or dphickm...@aol.com or follow him at Twitter.com/dphickman1.
WEST VIRGINIA 74, TCU 69
West Virginia (9-5, 1-0)
Min FG FT R A P
Williams 24 4-11 4-6 8 1 12