That’s a crucial step when the ninth-ranked Mountaineers’ goal is to win the whole thing.
Devin Williams had 18 points and 11 rebounds to lead a balanced attack, and the No. 2 seed never trailed in an 86-66 victory over TCU in the quarterfinals Thursday night — their first in the tournament since bolting the Big East for the conference prior to the 2012 season.
“I guess that’s somewhat of an accomplishment,” Williams said, “but we’re here to win a championship. All we can do is use this to move forward, clean up what we did today and just move forward.”
The plucky Horned Frogs gave West Virginia a tussle most of the way.
They trailed just 63-55 midway through the second half before a spree of 3-pointers allowed the Mountaineers (25-7) to seize control. They pulled away in the final minutes to give coach Bob Huggins his first victory in the Big 12 Tournament since leading Kansas State to a win in the 2007 event.
“I told them before the season started to get together, write down what their goals were,” Huggins said. “One of their goals was to win the league championship, which we fell short. Then they wanted to win the tournament championship, go to the NCAAs and continue to advance there.”
With the balance they showed Thursday night, making a deep March run sure seems possible.
Jevon Carter contributed 15 points, Tarik Phillip had 13 and Jaysean Paige scored 12 as West Virginia moved on to the semifinals Friday against the winner of No. 6 Oklahoma and No. 21 Iowa State.
Chauncey Collins had 18 points to lead the No. 10 seed Horned Frogs (12-21), who bumped off NCAA Tournament bubble team Texas Tech in the opening round. Malique Trent added 15 points and J.D. Miller had 12.
“Their pressure is amazing,” Collins said. “We had to step up and make plays and we didn’t make enough.”
Indeed, the game amounted to a contrast in styles: West Virginia tried to play fast, TCU tried to play slow. And early on, it was the Mountaineers who had the most success. They got hot from beyond the arc, racing to a 20-8 lead, and used all those made shots to slap on their exasperating pressure defense.
TCU did a solid job most of the game of breaking it.
The Mountaineers eventually fell into an offensive lull, and that allowed coach Trent Johnson’s team to claw back into the game. The Horned Frogs got within 29-23 late in the first half, then cut the lead to single digits again on a dunk by Miller that made it 56-47 with 14 1/2 minutes left in the game.
It took the Mountaineers heating up from the arc again to pull away.
It was 63-55 when Daxter Miles Jr. connected from right in front of West Virginia’s bench. Paige knocked down his second of the game moments later, and Miles buried another to make it 72-59 with 6:34 to go.
The Mountaineers drew away from there to wrap up their fifth consecutive win.
“They wore us down. I thought their multiple pressure caused us to make some ill-advised decisions,” Johnson said. “We competed really well. They really shot the living heck out of our zone.
Huggins was asked whether the Big 12 grind combined with the league tournament might leave the winner weary for the NCAA Tournament. But he quickly pointed out that West Virginia won three games in the brutal Big East Tournament the year it made the Final Four, and his Final Four team at Cincinnati went through a similar tournament experience. “I don’t know. Some people say you’re better off when you’re rested,” Huggins said. “Truth is when you were 18 or 19 years old and someone gave you a day off, you probably didn’t rest.”
TCU: Brandon Parrish was held to two points on 0-for-5 shooting. … Johnson fell to 0-9 in his career againstWest Virginia. … The Horned Frogs shot just 35 percent from the field.
West Virginia: Huggins improved to 12-0 against the Horned Frogs. … The Mountaineers finished 11 of 24 from beyond the arc. … Won despite committing 17 turnovers.
TCU begins preparing for next season.
West Virginia plays in the semifinals Friday night.