Cowboys Upset Mountaineers On Strength Of 52-Point Second Half
MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – West Virginia had one for the taking, and saw it taken away.
Blame several factors. There was the flurry of Oklahoma State points in the final 14 seconds, when it hit a kick-out three-pointer followed by a run-out dunk off forcing the Mountaineers into a turnover. There was the foul trouble for Sags Konate, forcing him out at approximately the nine-minute mark until the under-four timeout. There was the lack of execution on a final possession when WVU tried to find Konate for a touch on the block, but couldn’t penetrate the defense and was forced into a scramble that led to a Cowboys’ steal.
There were the 24 fouls called on West Virginia – an equal 12 each half – though truth told that was almost even with OSU’s 23 whistles. But Oklahoma State shot 36 free throws to WVU’s 28, getting six additional points from the line. The Mountaineers also couldn’t turn the Cowboys over often, at 13, and OSU surprisingly won the rebound battle and stayed within two of total shots, areas the Mountaineers have to have to win.
But there was really just one overriding aspect upon which to saddle blame: The rather stark lack of defense throughout the entire second half. If one had to finger one culprit, among several, that would be it. The Mountaineers allowed 52 points – one off the most of the season set at 53 versus Iowa State – and couldn’t get stops for the vast majority of the final period.
“They did a good job of making shots,” guard Jevon Carter said. “Too many open shots.”
Oklahoma State finished at 46.2 percent, but that included a sizzling second half that saw OSU connect on 15 of 28 looks, or 53.6 percent. That was even better than WVU’s 52.2 percent over the final 20 minutes, and it led to just the fifth loss in 70 games under Huggins in which the Mountaineers shot 50 percent or better overall.
“It was really a back and forth game,” said Esa Ahmad, who was tagged with foul trouble early after two quick ones over the initial minutes. “That’s a great team. They just hit a few more shots than we did, or one more shot. We have to get back in the lab.”
It’s difficult to figure. West Virginia can smother and stifle a far better offense in Oklahoma for a half, and hold probable All-American Trae Young to just one assist against five turnovers, but then gets lit up by a middling Big 12 offense for 88 points. This is a Cowboys team with just two players who average more than eight points per game, and it had five hit double figures, led by a pair of 20 point games from forward Cameron McGriff and guard Kendall Smith. McGriff did his work in 32 minutes of play prior to fouling out, and the two combined to offset Carter’s career-best 33 points, which snapped his former best of 29 points set against Missouri earlier this season.
Huggins tried to make all the right moves. West Virginia went to a zone leading 57-55 with 11 minutes remaining. It created an immediate turnover, which segued into a Carter lay-up. But Oklahoma State scored on its next possession, then burned a timeout to counter. The Mountaineers also went to a look that saw Carter and Dax Miles guarding down low with longer players fanned out across the foul line area.
They mixed in the man and an amorphous zone match-up that all worked in stretches. But nothing worked throughout, and it cost the group what should have been a third season sweep in conference play (Oklahoma and K-State) and the ability to remain at least a game back of Kansas and Texas Tech in a battle for the league regular season title.
“It was down the stretch. We were going back and forth and they hit one more shot,” said Ahmad, who added 16 points to Carter’s performance. “I feel like the winner of this league is going to have four or five losses. We just can’t lose them. Every game is a must-win. It just didn’t happen that way.”
It looked as though it might after a first half that was as back-and-forth as any this season. West Virginia jumped to an early lead at 15-9 before Oklahoma State’s switch to a zone spurred a 10-2 run that gave the Cowboys their first lead of the game. The Mountaineers couldn’t get anything on the interior, and were forced into shooting midrange jumpers.
Oklahoma State learned form that portion of play, however, and would come back to the looks handful off times in the second half in a game that featured 14 ties and 14 lead changes. It also hurt that after Konate went to the bench with his fourth foul with 8:54 left, the forward never got another offensive touch again even after re-entering with 3:47 left and the Mountaineers ahead 74-70.
It all combined into a mess of a loss that was at least a knockdown, if not knockout, in WVU’s Big 12 race that has slowed to a crawl with TCU coming to Morgantown in two days.
“Hard practice (on Sunday),” Carter said. “It’s over with. On to the next.”