FORT WORTH, Texas - Terry Henderson didn't do anything Saturday afternoon that he hadn't done before this season, getting hot and carrying West Virginia's basketball team for a while.
The freshman guard, though, is doing it again and perhaps more often now that he's put his back pain in the rear-view mirror. That has to be a positive for the Mountaineers as they head down the stretch.
Henderson scored 15 of his 17 points in the first half and Aaric Murray made several big plays down the stretch as the Mountaineers beat the Horned Frogs for the second time in just over two weeks, winning 63-50 Saturdasy at Daniel-Meyer Arena.
The win was West Virginia's third in a row. The Mountaineers (12-11, 5-5 Big 12) are above .500 again for the first time since suffering a three-game losing streak in mid-January, and it brings them up to .500 in the league for the first time since a win at Texas made them 1-1 on Jan. 9.
TCU, which stunned the league Wednesday by snapping an eight-game losing streak by upsetting No. 5 Kansas on this same court, falls to 10-13 overall and remains in the Big 12 basement at 1-9.
Henderson basically saved West Virginia in the first half Saturday, making all five of his shots and three 3-pointers. The Mountaineers were otherwise being outrebounded by a whopping 16-5 during that time and the rest of the team was shooting 5 for 14.
"We may have gotten shut out in the first half if it weren't for him,'' coach Bob Huggins said.
Henderson didn't exactly cool off in the second half, he just wasn't needed. He didn't even play until nearly midway through the second half and would take only one more shot. But he'd done the damage he needed to do, providing the spark to a team that was otherwise lackluster in the early going.
Again, this isn't the first time Henderson has provided that scoring spark. He's had some monster games, including 23 points against Michigan and 21 against Oklahoma. But a recurring back injury - back pain, actually - sidelined him or kept him limited for several weeks. Between that Oklahoma game and the end of January, Henderson had just two 3-pointers in 14 attempts. He missed two games entirely.
"I feel good now,'' Henderson said Saturday. "I've been feeling good, actually, but I'm just trying to get back to normal and get my conditioning back.''
He seems to be making progress. In West Virginia's last three games, all wins, Henderson is a combined 8 for 10 on his 3-point attempts. He's not been scoring big, but he's giving the Mountaineers a shot in the arm when they need it. Between him and fellow freshman Eron Harris, who had 14 points and is the team's leading scorer since joining the starting lineup eight games ago, they are providing a much-needed outside scoring punch.
"It's hard for a defense when we've got two athletic shooters who can get open,'' Henderson said. "It's hard to cover that.''
Still, West Virginia needed some grittiness to win Saturday. Despite the backcourt scoring of Henderson, Harris and Jabarie Hinds (12 points), the Mountaineers were in a dogfight because they couldn't rebound the basketball. In the final 10 minutes or so that changed, and a lot of it had to do with Murray.
The 6-foot-10 junior finished with just seven points but had six rebounds, a block and a steal in just 13 minutes, most of them late in the game. He also dropped in a 3-pointer.
In that stretch he worked both ends, rebounding and forcing a turnover after TCU had drawn to within 44-40. Harris scored on a dunk and a 3-pointer in a quick run and with 81/2 minutes to play the Mountaineers had their biggest lead so far, 51-40.
TCU never really threatened after that, getting no closer than seven points. West Virginia's biggest lead was the final score.
Kyan Anderson led TCU with 16 points and Connell Crossland added 12. Garlon Green, the star of TCU's win over Kansas with 20 points, had just three against the Mountaineers and missed eight of his nine shots.
Hinds nailed WVU's fourth 3-pointer of the first half in five attempts to give the Mountaineers a 31-28 lead at halftime.
TCU stayed right there with the Mountaineers, though, shooting 60 percent and overcoming 12 turnovers. In fact, TCU spent much of the first half playing either very well or very poorly. At one point the Horned Frogs were 6 of 9 from the floor but had turned the ball over nine times. That also helped negate a huge rebounding edge. TCU outrebounded West Virginia a whopping 16-5 in the first 20 minutes.
TCU finally began to cut down on its turnovers, but still finished with 16. The Horned Frogs also shot just 36.2 percent, including 25 percent in the decisive second half.
West Virginia returns to Texas for the third time in the last week and a half for its next game, Wednesday night against Baylor in Waco. After that, three of the next four are at home, beginning with a Saturday game against Texas Tech.
Reach Dave Hickman at 304-348-1734 or dphickm...@aol.com or follow him at Twitter.com/dphickman1.
West Virginia 63, TCU 50
WVU (12-11, 5-5 Big 12)
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