West Virginia Drops Key Home Game After OSU Rally
MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – Oklahoma State’s Cowboys pulled the trigger on their offense against West Virginia.
Head coach Bob Huggins pulled it during his postgame following the 88-85 loss that saw WVU surrender a two-point lead in the final 15 seconds after their defense dissolved in the second half.
“We didn’t guard the ball screen, we didn’t do what we were supposed to do,” Huggins said. “I don’t lie. I told you they didn’t practice very well. We didn’t practice very well. I was very disappointed in our practice, which leads to why we gave up 52 (second half) points.”
It was as poor of an overall defensive display as the Mountaineers have had this season. The irony – and part of the pain – of the whole situation is that their two worst halves in terms of points allowed have come against the Big 12’s bottom-feeder teams in OSU and Iowa State. WVU allowed 52 and 53 points, respectively, to each and simply never slowed much of anything.
Against the Cyclones it was the straight drives to the rim that hurt. Versus the Cowboys, it was the outside sharpshooting of Kendall Smith and Jeffrey Carroll. The two players stuck out as scorers on the scouting report, yet were left alone for numerous open looks and step-in shots. West Virginia also failed to force the needed number of turnovers, settling for 13 against a team that committed the most in the league entering. WVU was also outrebounded (31-28 overall; 12-10 on the offensive glass) by a team that lacks the sheer size of a Texas or Baylor.
“I mean, honestly, they made shots,” said Huggins, whose Mountaineer team lost for just the 12th time in 182 games when outshooting the opponent. “They made some hard ones, too. What we didn’t do is get rebounds when we needed to get rebounds. There were a bunch of run-stoppers.”
This was an Oklahoma State team that was mediocre at just about everything, but poor at nothing except the turnover issues. Yet it maximized its ability on offense, pushing five players into double figures, including two with 20 points apiece in Smith and Cameron McGriff. West Virginia did the same behind Jevon Carter’s new career high of 33 points along with 16 from Esa Ahmad. Both teams hit shots. Both went to the foul line, though that area was owned more by the Cowboys, especially in the first half when OSU shot 15-for-18 to WVU’s 4-for-6.
That was a part of it, as Huggins pointed out, saying that it was “hard to guard them at the foul line. They shot 36. We shot 28. You saw it as much as I saw it.”
But that wasn’t the only part of it. Where West Virginia made plays down the stretch against Oklahoma, getting a tipped pass in the backcourt, getting a slapped ball from Trae Young’s hands that forced a pass that bled more time off the clock, this time there was little of that for almost all of the second half. Step-in looks, open threes, the touch fouls called on Logan Routt that led to more OSU free throws and Routt’s foul out with 3:47 left after playing just 15 minutes.
Then the final possessions, the evaporation of a three-point lead with 97 seconds and a two-point advantage with 30 seconds to play. The solid look from Lindy Waters that found the netting, then WVU’s final true possession when the Mountaineers couldn’t get the ball to Sags Konate on the blocks, and frankly couldn’t get a shot, period. That led to a steal and then the run-out dunk, forcing a desperation final heave from Carter that missed the mark.
The result, and it isn’t pretty, is that the Mountaineers have now lost to two of the worst three teams in the Big 12, offsetting all that work done against Oklahoma. How it all shakes out is yet to be determined. But as Carter and Huggins noted, something needs shaken up.
“It depends on what happens on Monday and then the Saturday after that,” Huggins said of the Big 12 race. “It wasn’t just another day; it’s never just another day. We didn’t do what we were supposed to do, didn’t run the sets out of the timeout.”