TCU coach Jamie Dixon had a simple game plan for his team going into Tuesday’s game against No. 10 West Virginia.
“There’s no way to win unless you outrebound them,” Dixon said.
Easier said than done.
West Virginia won the battle on the boards and pulled away for a 74-66 victory over TCU at Schollmaier Arena. WVU had the rebounding edge 38-30, and also went to the free-throw line almost twice as many times as TCU (19 of 33 for WVU compared to 10 of 17 for TCU).
“We need to be elite-level defensively to beat these kinds of teams and tonight we weren’t,” Dixon said. “Certainly the rebounds bear that out. The margin kind of fits what happens when you get outrebounded by eight.”
West Virginia (16-6, 9-4 Big 12) has won seven of its last nine. TCU (11-10, 4-8), meanwhile, has lost eight of its last 10 and dropped to 0-6 against ranked opponents this season.
The Mountaineers were led by Derek Culver, the Big 12’s top rebounder who had a game-high 14 rebounds on the night. Culver also scored 18 points. Taz Sherman led WVU in scoring with 23 points, including eight from the free throw line.
TCU’s leading scorer was junior guard RJ Nembhard, who finished with 17 points, nine assists and four rebounds. Junior center Kevin Samuel had a double-double with 11 points and 10 rebounds.
Nembhard acknowledged that it was difficult for the team to find any sort of rhythm with the number of fouls being called against them. TCU had more fouls called against it (15) in the second half than WVU had the entire game (14).
“It can be difficult because you start thinking about, ‘Can I defend them this way? Can I defend him that way?’” Nembhard said. “It can mess with your psyche, but you keep playing hard. Hopefully they understand we’re playing physical. They’re a physical team as well. I wasn’t expecting that, but it’s how the game went.”
Said Dixon: “It was quick to the bonus [in the second half], but you’ve got to play through it. We’ve got to respond to the good and the bad.”
West Virginia started to pull away in the second half. The Mountaineers had a 37-31 lead at halftime and built a quick 42-31 lead by scoring the first five points of the second half.
West Virginia went on a 13-2 run later in the half, including a four-point play by Sherman for a 62-46 lead with just over 11 minutes left.
TCU pulled within single digits after that, but never truly threatened. The Frogs were within 68-60 with over five minutes left, but scored just six points down the stretch.
“We’ve got to find a way,” Dixon said. “We’re a team that’s eighth place out of 10. They’re in second place. You’ve got to find a way. Rebounding is one of them and getting to the foul line more is the other thing you’ve got to do.”
TCU travels to Iowa State on Saturday. Tip-off is set for 5 p.m. in Ames.
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