West Virginia executed a classic “Stop the Presses!” moment worthy of a 1940s movie with its 87-84 comeback win over Oklahoma State on Monday night.
Those weren’t presses of the basketball type – the Mountaineers actually ramped up, not halted, those versions – but rather both the real and virtual ones of the modern media world. Without question, game stories on the WVU-OSU encounter were mostly written, awaiting just the plug-in of a couple of quotes and the final statistics in order to be complete and ready for publishing. With the homestanding Cowboys holding a 19-point lead with just 11:15 to play in the game, the only excitement left was the countdown to meet deadlines for print editions.
Then, the Mountaineer trio of Deuce McBride, Taz Sherman and Kedrian Johnson took control.
Trailing 68-49, Sherman hit a three, and McBride duplicated it on WVU’s next possession. Each added two more points, and Johnson got into the act with a pair of throws. Emmitt Matthews followed with a steal and a thunderous dunk, and suddenly the deficit was down to five at 69-64.
Runs of that magnitude (15-1) are often tough to sustain, as the energy expended to make such a run isn’t unlimited, but Oklahoma State was by this point more than a bit discombobulated on offense. After a first 30 minutes in which it diced up the Mountaineer defense, OSU committed five turnovers in the span of just more than three minutes, and did not make a shot from the field for nearly six.
The Cowboys did manage to steady themselves a bit at that point, scoring six points against the Mountaineers’s five, but then McBride went thermal. He scored eight straight points on a pair of free throws and a brace of 3-pointers, the latter of which came from so deep that he might have been in danger of stepping out of bounds. By the time that flurry was over, WVU lead 79-75, having completed a 30-7 run.
“I’m a firm believer that your defense starts your offense,” McBride said of his view of the reason for the outburst. “Getting in s stance and talking and moving, it makes coming down to the offensive end much easier, and it affects it in a positive way.”
Almost lost in the massive comeback was an equally towering performance from Derek Culver, who kept the Mountaineers in the game before the guards’ late heroics. He had a double-double in the first half alone (11 points, 10 rebounds) and became just the seventh Mountaineer in the last 60 years to record as many as 22 points and 19 rebounds in a game.
How rare was Derek Culver’s 22-point, 19-rebound performance? Been done just seven times in the last 60 years. pic.twitter.com/jqgQWVnbGJ
— Blue Gold News (@BlueGoldNews) January 5, 2021
Culver definitely didn’t disappear down the stretch – he bookended his six straight points in the the opening stages of the half with five points, and he collected nine of WVU’s 16 rebounds in the final half. His showing was certainly worthy of a “Stop the Presses!” shout of his own.
The spotlight, though, was on the WVU backcourt, and not just on the offensive end. Applying the halfcourt pressure that has fueled stretches of excellent play at different points this year, the Mountaineers forced those turnovers that fave them extra offensive chances.
Johnson had one of the biggest – and in reality, one of the few – defensive plays of the game for WVU. He stood his ground and took a charge from OSU’s Cade Cunningham, who led OSU in scoring with 25 points, with 31 seconds to go. That play sent Cunningham to the bench with his fifth foul, and allowed WVU to extend its lead to three.
“I thought he was terrific,” WVU head coach Bob Huggins said afterward. “He was far and away the difference in the game. Hopefully we can continue down that road with him.”
Culver’s 22 points were tops for the Mountaineers, who also got 21 from McBride and 20 from Sherman. It was the first time in nearly six years that WVU ahd three 20-point scorers in the same game. Culver’s 19 boards obviously led WVU, which did not have another player with more than four.
Cunningham’s 25 points and nine rebounds topped the Cowboy effort, with Isaac Likekele’s 22 and seven in support. McBride and Johnson each had five assists for the Mountaineers.
West Virginia returns home after its late night Big Monday win to host Texas on Saturday, Jan. 9 at 1:00 p.m. ET. The game will be shown on ESPN. The Longhorns are 8-1 overall and 2-0 in the league, and host Iowa State on Tuesday evening before traveling to Morgantown.