No. 17 West Virginia men’s basketball is looking for their second sweep of the season when they head to Fort Worth, Texas to square off against the TCU Horned Frogs on Saturday.
The first meeting of the season went down in Morgantown in January, with the Mountaineers dominating the Horned Frogs at the WVU Coliseum. Some of the best frontcourt players in the Big 12, namely TCU’s Kevin Samuel and WVU’s Oscar Tshiebwe and Derek Culver, faced one another. While Samuel struggled and eventually fouled out, Culver earned a double-double with Tshiebwe also finding double figures as WVU coasted to a win.
That contest was just a continuation of a series which belongs firmly to the Mountaineers since joining the Big 12 by a margin of 14-2.
With the postseason on the horizon, the stakes for this meeting are much different than those of the first. West Virginia has hit a rough patch in their schedule, and a loss would drop the Mountaineers to a .500 record in the Big 12. The Horned Frogs, on the other hand, have much more on the line, as they currently find themselves outside of the bubble for this year’s NCAA Tournament.
Here are some of the matchups that could decide this contest:
Who will make shots?
West Virginia’s biggest struggle has come on the offensive end, specifically with their shot-making. This has only gotten worse since the beginning of Big 12 play, with the Mountaineers making just 41.1 percent of their field goals in that span.
TCU’s offense, however, is based around their jumpshots. It’s led by guard Desmond Bane, whose team-leading 15.9 points per game is second in the league.
“He’s got great range on his shot,” said WVU coach Bob Huggins. “He’s done a great job of working on his game.”
He struggled to get points on the board, logging 13 in the January showdown in Morgantown.
West Virginia’s offense came alive against the Horned Frogs, putting 81 points on the board at a 57.7 percent clip. That offensive success wouldn’t be here to stay, however, as they would make just 40.7 percent of their shots in subsequent games.
This even prompted Bob Huggins to make a change in his starting lineup for their last matchup, adding an extra guard and sitting Culver on the bench against Oklahoma State on Tuesday. That change, he says, didn’t quite work out the way he wanted, and a return to his bigger lineup “saved” his team in the contest.
Regardless, the Mountaineers got a significant contribution from the two guards who earned their first starts, Miles McBride and Taz Sherman. McBride and Sean McNeil would lead the Mountaineers with 11 points each, while Sherman added another 9 in the winning effort.
The inside battle
Three of the Big 12’s best rebounders will once again face off. Culver and Tshiebwe both returned to their normal form on the boards against OSU, combining for 25 rebounds as the duo both grabbed double-digit boards for just the second time in Big 12 play.
As Culver was on the bench for the start of that matchup, Huggins attributes some of his success to his newfound — and likely temporary — role on the bench.
“You could say it motivated Derek,” he said. “That’s as well as Derek’s played in a long time, and he’s the guy that turned the game around if you’re going to point to one guy.”
After putting together four straight consecutive double-figure scoring games (including two double-doubles) following the WVU matchup, Samuel plateaued, failing to put as many points on the board for four straight games.
Of course, like the bigs on WVU, Samuel’s skill is less in his scoring and more in his rebounding. Even in a scoreless outing against Kansas, he still grabbed 10 rebounds and logged 5 blocks as the Horned Frogs fell to the Jayhawks.
Where to watch
The action tips off at ESPNU at 2 p.m. ET. WVIllustrated’s Nick Farrell will be in Fort Worth and will have highlights when the contests ends. Plus, we will have a live game log with updates and analysis of the contest as it unfolds.
Listening on the radio? Tony Caridi and Jay Jacobs will have the call on the Mountaineer Sports Network by Learfield IMG. West Virginia Illustrated will also have updates from the WVU Coliseum on our live game log as well as on social media.