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Huggins Secures Win Number 899 as West Virginia Tops TCU

West Virginia forward Jalen Bridges (2) shoots while defended by TCU forward Kevin Easley (34) and guard RJ Nembhard (22) during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game Thursday, March 4, 2021, in Morgantown, W.Va. (AP Photo/Kathleen Batten)

Following Tuesday’s heartbreaking overtime loss, West Virginia head coach Bob Huggins told his No. 6 Mountaineers not to let the dread of defeat linger.

His team appeared to have taken those words to heart.

On the back of forward Jalen Bridges, who earned his first career double-double, the Mountaineers came out ahead of the TCU Horned Frogs on Thursday night, 76-67.

Bridges finished with 22 points and 12 rebounds, both team highs. Twelve of those points came in the first half, allowing West Virginia (18-7) to construct an intimidating lead early on.

“He’s really worked at it,” Huggins said of Bridges.

“He’s a guy who gets in the gym, but he works on what you ask him to work on. And he’s getting better and better and better because of that. I think the other thing is he knows what he can do and what he can’t, so he really tries to accentuate the positive and stay away from the negative.”

From the opening tip off, the Mountaineers appeared in control. That notion was affirmed after guard Sean McNeil sank a 3-point basket eight minutes into the game, sending West Virginia’s lead to double-digits.

TCU (12-12) saw a slow start from guard R.J. Nembhard, who entered the day among the Big 12’s offensive leaders. He was held scoreless in the first half, allowing the Mountaineers to enter halftime in possession of a 32-18 lead.

Nembhard, who is the Horned Frogs’ leading scorer, began to somewhat turn things around in the second half, and TCU was able to trim West Virginia’s lead to single digits.

The Horned Frogs, despite shooting a much improved 17-for-32 (53.1%) from the field in the second half, remained stagnant offensively. While they had cut the WVU lead to make it somewhat more manageable, they could not move much further than that.

Nembhard struggled to be a part of it, finishing with only five points — a meager improvement.

“We just tried to make his life as miserable as possible,” Bridges said.

“We trapped every ball screen he came off of. We tried to deny him the ball when he wouldn’t give it up. I feel like we really did a good job at that; that was our game plan.”

In dire straits, TCU resorted to intentional fouls that ultimately made little impact. The Mountaineers held on for the victory, placing them in position to clinch the No. 2 position in the conference with a win against Oklahoma State on Saturday.

Forward Derek Culver, who finished with 17 points, needs only eight to reach 1,000 for his college career.

“That would be really big,” Culver said.

“I’m not even going to lie to you, I didn’t know I was that close to it. I really wasn’t paying attention, but that’s something I’m most definitely going to be looking forward to.”

Thursday’s win was the 899th in the career of Huggins, and he’ll be going for No. 900 against on Saturday. Only five Division I coaches have reached the milestone all-time.

“You can’t really just brush that off like that’s just something that small,” Culver said. “900 anything is a lot, especially when you’re talking about basketball games.”

NO. 2 MICHIGAN 69, MICHIGAN STATE 50

Franz Wagner scored 19 points, Hunter Dickinson added 14 and No. 2 Michigan wrapped up the Big Ten title with a victory over rival Michigan State.

The Wolverines (19-2, 14-2) had a chance to clinch the championship based on winning percentage with a victory in any of their final three games. They were blown out by No. 4 Illinois — the team chasing them — on Tuesday night, but they rebounded with a gritty effort two nights later.

Michigan went on a 9-2 run to take a 39-28 lead into halftime. The Wolverines later went on a 25-4 tear that spanned much of the second half.

Aaron Henry scored 14 points for Michigan State (14-11, 8-11), which will finish with a losing conference record for the first time since 1993. It had never happened before under coach Tom Izzo, and the Spartans are struggling to extend Izzo’s streak of 22 straight NCAA Tournament appearances.

NO. 3 BAYLOR 81. NO. 17 OKLAHOMA STATE 70

WACO, Texas (AP) — Jared Butler scored 22 points and Baylor, fresh off clinching its first Big 12 title on the road two days earlier, beat Oklahoma State to end the Cowboys’ five-game winning streak.

The Bears (20-1, 12-1 Big 12) seem to have their legs back under them after a three-week stretch without any games because of COVID-19 issues in the program.

Matthew Mayer and MaCio Teague both added 19 points for the Bears, and Davion Mitchell had 12.

Freshman standout and Big 12 leading scorer Cade Cunningham had 24 points and Kalib Boone 10 for Oklahoma State (17-7, 10-7).

NO. 13 KANSAS 67, UTEP 62

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — Marcus Garrett scored on a driving layup with 22.4 seconds to go and Dajuan Harris added a pair of clinching free throws as Kansas overcame a 15-point second-half deficit and beat UTEP.

David McCormack scored 16 of his 18 points in the second half, and Ochai Agbaji had 19 points as the Jayhawks (19-8) avoided a rare second loss in Allen Fieldhouse this season.

Bryson Williams led UTEP (12-11) with 23 points and 13 rebounds. Souley Boum finished with 16 points and six boards.

NO. 18 TEXAS TECH 81, IOWA STATE 54

LUBBOCK, Texas (AP) — Mac McClung scored 20 points and Texas Tech beat Iowa State for its third consecutive victory following a three-game losing streak.

Marcus Santos-Silva had 14 points and seven rebounds to help Texas Tech (17-8, 9-7 Big 12) wrap up its home schedule with a fifth consecutive victory over the Cyclones, the longest winning streak for either team in the series.

Jalen Coleman-Lands and Tyler Harris each scored 15 points for Iowa State (2-20, 0-17), which has lost more Big 12 games in a season since TCU went 0-18 in 2013-14.

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