West Virginia was more competitive Monday at TCU than some 50-plus hours earlier in a 36-point loss at Texas.
The Mountaineers are still nowhere close to breaking through away from home, and against the Horned Frogs at Schollmaier Arena, TCU had four double-figure scorers and eight players with at least six points while shooting better than 48 percent to go unthreatened after halftime in an 81-65 victory.
West Virginia (8-16, 3-8) suffered its third straight loss and fell to 0-6 in road games and 0-10 outside of Morgantown.
“We have to figure out how we play through physicality and execute through physicality,” WVU interim head coach Josh Eilert said. “We have to get that mental toughness and physical toughness to our game, which we don’t have.”
The Mountaineers’ best stretch of the matchup came over the first 3 minutes when three-pointers from Quinn Slazinski and Kerr Kriisa helped stake WVU to a 10-5 lead.
TCU (17-7, 6-5) got even at 10 on Emanuel Miller’s conventional three-point play, and when Chuck O’Bannon scored at the rim at the 13:31 mark of the opening half, the Horned Frogs were in front to stay.
With the exception of turning it over at a high rate, the Mountaineers executed at a high rate offensively for much of the first half to hang around, and their deficit was only 27-25 when Kriisa made a contested shot on a fast break 5:46 before halftime.
TCU would go on to score 20 points over the final 5:18 of the half starting with Miller’s layup that doubled his team’s advantage.
Triples from Jakobe Coles and Trevian Tennyson within a 27-second span enabled TCU to take its first double-digit lead at 43-31, and the Horned Frogs went to the break in front, 47-35.
“We have some really good guys and really skilled guys, but when the pressure gets turned up, the physicality of the game really affects us,” Eilert said. “Even more so on the road, because you’re going to get the road whistle. That’s the way it is in this league. It’s no different tonight. I’m not going to get into all that, but we have to match the physicality of teams we play or it’s going to be a long night each and every night in this league.”
Eleven of West Virginia’s season-high 19 turnovers came over the first 20 minutes, and the Horned Frogs cashed in with 18 points off those miscues.
That helped TCU make 16-of-29 shots and 5-of-9 threes in the opening half, while scoring an additional 10 points on 15 free-throw attempts.
“The way they play so physical, that was going to be their bread and butter going downhill and creating those turnovers,” Eilert said. “We talked pregame and said that’s an absolute key to the game. If we don’t take care of the ball and control this game on the offensive end, it’s going to be a long night for us.”
Foul trouble plagued WVU center Jesse Edwards, who was limited to 8 first-half minutes and finished the outing with six points and four rebounds on 1-for-6 shooting.
WVU got as close as nine on three separate occasions over the opening 4:30 of the second half, but the Horned Frogs ran off eight straight points and took their largest lead to that point at 66-48 off a Jameer Nelson, Jr. jumper with 10:35 left.
Miller’s layup with 7:54 remaining made it 73-52 for the first margin of 20-plus points, and the Horned Frogs had 77 points with 5 minutes remaining before cooling off some late.
The Horned Frogs finished with a 26-8 edge in fast break points and a 44-18 advantage in paint points.
“When you turn it over 19 times and they get 26 points off your turnovers, there’s your game right there,” Eilert said. “We didn’t have it tonight in any way, shape or form. They had us turned around. That pressure really bothered us and we couldn’t overcome that.”
Miller, Nelson Jr. and Tennyson had 14 points apiece to lead TCU, while Coles added 11. Micah Peavy contributed nine points and game highs of seven rebounds and five assists.
RaeQuan Battle’s 21 points led West Virginia, which has lost its six road league games by an average of 19.5 points. Slazinski added 15 points and Kriisa scored 13 in defeat.
Outside of that trio, the Mountaineers shot 3 for 17 and missed all six three-point attempts.
Kriisa and fellow WVU guard Noah Farrakhan exited the game with 2 minutes remaining due to injury.
“You talk to the trainers and it doesn’t seem like it’s nearly as bad as it looked in person. I was a little worried with Noah’s. Kerr’s had shoulder injuries he’s fought over the course of his career, so whatever happened with that issue is concerning,” Eilert said. “But Noah’s issue doesn’t seem to be as bad as what it probably looked on the floor the way he went down. Hopefully it’s a light ankle sprain and he can work through that this week.”