MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — TCU’s Jamie Dixon and his team came to Morgantown needing to take care of business.
The Horned Frogs failed, falling to West Virginia, 104-96, in a triple-overtime thriller behind standout performances from the Mountaineers’ Derek Culver and Jordan McCabe on Tuesday night.
Culver had 22 points and 21 rebounds, and McCabe scored a career-high 25 points to go with 11 assists for his first career double-double.
For WVU coach Bob Huggins, it’s the best he has seen from his team in a long time.
“What really to me was great is they’re in the huddle saying we’re not going to lose,” Huggins said. “I haven’t heard since (Jevon Carter) left.”
The possible bursting of the Horned Frogs’ (18-10, 6-9 Big 12) NCAA Tournament bubble came with four seconds remaining in regulation, when West Virginia’s McCabe picked the pocket of TCU’s Desmond Bane with the game tied at 68-68.
In overtime, West Virginia (11-17, 3-12) managed to stay deadlocked with TCU after Chase Harler nailed a jumper with 40 seconds remaining. Harler grabbed the rebound after Alex Robinson’s missed jumper, but the Mountaineers were unable to capitalize, sending the game to a second overtime.
Similar story in the second overtime for the Mountaineers, as Culver put up the last shot that came up just short.
The dam finally broke for the Horned Frogs in the third overtime, when the Mountaineers went on a 10-0 run midway through with three-pointers by Harler and Lamont West as well as a layup and a pair of free throws by Jermaine Haley.
“Obviously, the game we felt we could have won a number of times but we didn’t,” said Dixon, the former Pitt coach. “They deserve the win.”
West Virginia played Tuesday’s game with only eight scholarship players.
“That’s the reason we practice three hours,” McCabe said. “That’s the reason we do the stuff we do in the offseason. I just think that our coaching staff prepared us for stuff like that. They prepared us for everything.”
Haley added 18 points, and West chipped in 17 for WVU.
Kouat Noi had a double-double with 17 points and 10 rebounds for TCU. JD Miller led the scoring with 24 points and Bane added 17.
The Mountaineers outrebounded the Horned Frogs 52-45.
The triple-overtime thriller was a milestone for both teams for various reasons.
For West Virginia, it marked their first triple-OT game since they lost at Dixon-led Pitt, 98-95, on Feb. 12, 2010 and their first at home since a 90-86 win over Virginia Tech on Feb. 2, 1983.
For the Horned Frogs, it’s their first triple overtime game since a 108-99 win over Texas State in Fort Worth on Nov. 24, 2009 and their first one on the road in program history.
With games against Big 12 title hopefuls Kansas State and Texas Tech remaining, the Horned Frogs might need a run in the conference tournament to find itself on the happy side of Selection Sunday.
“Where we’re at in the tournament, we were in a pretty good spot going into this,” Dixon said. “This is a loss, a road loss granted, so we’ll see. We’ve been operating with our back against the wall no matter what seed we’ve been and no matter what people have seen us as.”