MORGANTOWN (AP) — Jonathan Holton returned from a suspension and after leading No. 10 West Virginia to an easy victory he seemed to understand why he was away from the team for four games.
“It’s always going to be tough love and Coach (Bob) Huggins always pushes everyone on the team to be better. He’s really the heart of the team and he’s going to make sure we give our best and our all,” the senior forward said.
Holton led four West Virginia players in double figures on Saturday as the Mountaineers assured themselves of at least a tie for first place in the Big 12 with a 73-42 rout of TCU.
The winner of Saturday’s Oklahoma-Kansas game will be tied for first with West Virginia.
Holton, who served the time off for an unspecified violation of team rules, had 14 points and seven rebounds for the Mountaineers (20-5, 9-3), while Esa Ahmad had a career-high 14 points and five rebounds, and Devin Williams, had his Big 12-leading 11th double-double with 11 points and 13 rebounds. He became West Virginia’s 50th 1,000-point scorer.
Jaysean Paige had 10 points for West Virginia.
Chauncey Collins of TCU (11-14, 2-10) scored 20 points against West Virginia for the second time this season.
West Virginia is 8-0 all-time against TCU with all the games being played in the Big 12.
The Mountaineers went 2-2 without Holton. Not only did he give them a scoring and rebounding weapon, he also led a defense that forced 26 turnovers. West Virginia turned those into 26 points.
Holton entered the game with 16:29 remaining in the first half. He hit a 3-pointer and then took a perfect pass for a layup and a 22-10 lead.
“As seniors and as friends we just try to give him advice and look forward for him (Holton) coming back and get ready to keep going up,” Paige said.
“That’s what we expected from him, so it wasn’t nothing out of the extraordinary. He played a solid game and let it come to him. He played well.”
His slam dunk later made it 33-15.
The 31-point margin was West Virginia’s highest in Big 12 play this season.
TCU: The Horned Frogs snapped a seven-game losing streak in the conference on Monday when they beat Oklahoma State 63-56. … The Frogs trailed 25-16 at the half. The 16 points were a halftime low.
WEST VIRGIONIA: The win was the 785th for Huggins in 34 years. He is one victory behind Lefty Driesell for ninth place on the all-time list.
TCU hosts Kansas State on Tuesday.
West Virginia is at No. 24 Texas on Tuesday. The Longhorns beat the Mountaineers 56-49 earlier this season.