The Times West Virginian

February 9, 2013

WVU men visit confident Frogs

By Bob Hertzel
Times West Virginian

MORGANTOWN — The more you watch college sports, the less you know, or so it seems.

Take West Virginia’s 4 p.m. game today at TCU.

This was supposed to be a walk in the park for the resurgent Mountaineers, a team that seems to be discovering its identity, that is shooing better and has put together its first two-game winning streak since mid-December.

In TCU it was supposed to be facing the Big 12s worst team, a team that had not won a conference game, that it had beaten handily at home earlier in the season, 71-50, with freshman Eron Harris scoring a career-high 19 points.

This was one you were supposed to fly in, put in the win column and take home with you.

Then TCU upset Kansas Wednesday night.

Kansas!

In case that didn’t get through to you, let’s try it again.

KANSAS!!

You remember Kansas, don’t you? It has won eight straight Big 12 titles. It had beaten WVU 61-56 in Morgantown.

What TCU did to Kansas was shocking, so much so that Jayhawks coach Bill Self offered this analysis of his team on that day.

“It was the worst team that Kansas has ever put on the floor since Dr. Naismith was there,” Self said.

Then, after thinking for a moment, he added:

“What’s the right word? Futility? Would that be a word? I don’t know that you could describe it. It was awful.”

KU had shot 29.5 percent (18 for 61) from the field and hit just three of 22 from three-point range. The Jayhawks scored 13 first-half points.

“I think (Dr. Naismith) had some bad teams when he lost to Topeka YMCA and things like that in the first couple years,” Self said. “But for the first half, there hasn’t been a team play worse than that.”

This would be true, but give TCU some credit, too.

WVU coach Bob Huggins does.

“I really think they played as hard as anybody has on a game-to-game basis,” Huggins said when asked about this matchup.

It was something he had said following the victory over TCU … and now they had beaten Kansas.

“They made some shots. They did a great job defensively. When Kansas cut it to four I think they missed three front ends and still were able to go down and get stops. I thought that was really impressive,” Huggins added.

Huggins had said all year that he didn’t think TCU would go the entire season without winning a Big 12 game.

“They play too hard, they run things, Trent (Johnson) has done a good job. I thought they’d win a game in the league,” he said.

But Kansas?

“Kansas probably wouldn’t have been my first pick,” Huggins admitted.

 So now his team with an 11-11 record and needing a win to get to 5-5 in Big 12 play has a challenge from a team bursting with new confidence.

 The one thing the Mountaineers have going for them is a newfound ability to put the ball in the basket with Deniz Kilicli finally establishing an inside presence for them.

Shooting just .403 for the year from the field, WVU has hit at .430 clip over its last five games, one of them being a dismal shooting game against Kansas.

Kilicli has led the way hitting 19 of his last 33 shots over the last five games, a .576 clip.

That makes defenses have to guard him, which should make life easier for the Mountaineer outside shooters, who are starting to come on.

The player who has struggled the most the last couple of games has been the one they had been counting on the most, Eron Harris, who has to get on a hot streak to give WVU the kind of balance that can carry it to the wire and give it a shot at earning an NCAA bid.

Email Bob Hertzel at bhertzel@hotmail.com or follow him on Twitter @bhertzel.