MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — It took them six games, but the West Virginia men’s basketball team earned its first win in the Big 12 conference of 2023.
The Mountaineers battled the TCU Horned Frogs on Wednesday and notched a 74-65 win in Morgantown behind a physical performance. Kedrian Johnson led WVU with 20 points, but Jimmy Bell Jr.’s 15-point, 12-rebound double-double made the difference for the Mountaineers in front of their home crowd.
“Jimmy was terrific, but you know, Jimmy is a guy who really cares,” said WVU coach Bob Huggins. “He’s a guy who works really hard. You know, when you think about a guy who came in here and lost the weight that he lost in order to be able to play, his skill level has gotten so much better.”
Bell entered the Coliseum with extra motivation as he went up against TCU big man Eddie Lampkin, a forward with whom he is familiar back to his AAU days. The WVU senior said he received text messages from several people about the matchup, giving him something to prove when the ball tipped off.
He showed his physicality from the game’s outset, grabbing eight rebounds by halftime and earning a new jersey in the process.
“I had some salmon before the game and it came up a little bit,” Bell said. “I’m good though.”
West Virginia earned the benefit of the tough play as the Horned Frogs quickly racked up a number of fouls, finishing with 24 in the game. Even though WVU picked up 17 foul calls, each team took the same number of free throw attempts.
However, those extra whistles added up for the Horned Frogs late in the game. Bell ultimately won the inside battle when Lampkin fouled out with over six minutes to go, leaving the game with just six points and three rebounds on his stat line.
“This was a different game. It wasn’t a basketball game, it was just a different game,” said TCU coach Jamie Dixon.
WVU led for nearly the whole game with the exception of the opening minute after TCU scored the first basket. The Mountaineers held a double-digit lead for 23 minutes of the game, but the Horned Frogs did make a late comeback to get within a bucket.
Mike Miles Jr. led this charge for TCU, scoring 14 of his 21 points after halftime. He was one of three TCU players in double figures, along with Chuck O’Bannon and Emmanuel Miller, each of whom scored 13.
Along with Bell, Johnson also typified both WVU’s physicality and its improvement at the free throw line, scoring half of his points from the free throw line with a perfect 10-for-10 night. WVU shot 20-for-26 from the line as a team.
Emmitt Matthews Jr. was WVU’s third double-digit scorer, adding 10 points to the total.
WVU saves itself from a historically bad start to Big 12 play, snapping a five-game losing streak to open its league slate. Texas Tech remains the only winless team in the conference.
The Mountaineers next host No. 7 Texas at the WVU Coliseum on Saturday. Tip-off is set for 6 p.m. ET.