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March 1, 2014

Back to the Basics

West Virginia head coach Bob Huggins decided a week and a half ago that he had enough and wanted to get back to the things that helped propel many of his previous Mountaineer teams to success. And Saturday in the 81-59 win over TCU his team responded.

Those things, playing solid defense and rebounding the basketball, were two issues that have plagued the Mountaineers this season and in the first half looked to be a problem again as the Horned Frogs shot over 50-percent from the floor. However, in the second frame, West Virginia held them under 30-percent and outrebounded the Horned Frogs 44-29.

At the end of the game, Huggins read off the stats of his players and pointed out the fact that typically with those numbers it would be in a losing effort, but the defensive effort helped West Virginia score a much needed win to snap a three-game skid.

"We guarded better," he said. "I was hoping we would guard better. We'll guard for a while and then stop guarding. We did that in the first half but we were much better in the second half."

West Virginia was led in scoring by the usual suspects Eron Harris with 18 and Juwan State with 17, while Nathan Adrian chipped in with 14 and Devin Williams recorded his first double-double since Jan. 11 with 10 points and 10 rebounds.

However, the talk of the post-game was the spark provided by walk-on guard Chase Connor, who scored 9 points off the bench hitting a trio of three-pointers. When asked about why Connor didn't play more in the second half, Huggins said that it was more for defensive purposes, but he played a major impact in the first half.

"We tried to get him in some defensive things but it's hard we were playing pretty well in the second half," he said.

The walk-on program has been successful for West Virginia and Connor is an example of that after bypassing several lower level division one offers to take a spot on with the Mountaineers. After not scoring since the exhibition game to open the season, Connor hit his first three baskets Saturday.

"They love the university so much; they love the state so much. The kids grow up in this state dreaming to play here," he said.

Huggins said that he spoke with the in-state native prior to the game about coming in and making some shots against the Horned Frogs 2-3 zone defense after he struggled with nerves early in the season and Connor responded.

"He came in with a lot of confidence," he said.

West Virginia will travel to Oklahoma Wednesday for a matchup with the Sooners.

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