WVU Readies For A More Aggressive Oklahoma State

WVU Readies For A More Aggressive Oklahoma State

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – Bob Huggins had an intriguing take on the season thus far for Oklahoma State, the Mountaineers’ first opponent in an opening two-game road trip starting Friday.

The Cowboys, Huggins said, play more aggressively at home than on the road. That’s true of a handful of teams, though WVU wouldn’t be included among them. OSU, out to a 10-2 start with victories over the likes of Pepperdine and, yes, Pitt, also defeated then-No. 19 Florida State 71-70 on Dec. 16. That jumpstarted a current three-game winning smudge, and was anchored by 22 forced turnovers by Oklahoma State – every FSU player had at least two – while using that to overcome shooting and rebounding deficiencies.

Guard Jeff Carroll hit for 23 points and seven rebounds in 35 minutes while 6-foot-9 forward Mitchell Soloman managed 12 points and 11 rebounds (seven on offense) with three blocks.

West Virginia guard Beetle Bolden (3) finds room for a lay-up at the rim

“They’re a group that plays more aggressive at home than on the road,” Huggins said. “Florida State has been historically really big and really athletic and (OSU) kind of dominated. They have bunch of guys that can make shots, so it’s hard to give them help because everybody can make shots.”

Oklahoma State has three starters in double figures, along with two others averaging between 7.8 and 8.8 points. The balance has helped first-year head coach Mike Boynton, elevated from an OSU assistant last year, win seven of the last eight and start the season 8-1 at home, the lone loss a 78-66 decision to No. 6 Wichita State.

“They’re probably like Oklahoma State was early last year, although they run a lot more, they shoot it more in transition and they rebound it a lot more,” Huggins said. “(Kendall) Smith at guard is a fifth year senior. He’s been through it. (Brandon) Averrette has played a bunch, particularly got all that experience when (Jawun) Evans has got hurt. They’re basically a 1-2-2 and then they’ll extend it out three-quarter court but it’s more to slow it down. They’ll trap you if you take it in a trap area.

“Carroll is rebounding the ball so much better; he keeps so many balls alive for them. He’s playing far and away the best he’s ever played. I think Solomon has made their team like Nate Adrian did ours a year ago. He does a little bit of everything and he does it well. He knows exactly what they want done. He can score, rebound it. He’s a really good post defender. He can run in transition. I think he’s their Nate Adrian.”

The game is part of a two-game swing to open league play, marking the fifth time, per request, the Mountaineers have played their initial pair of Big 12 games away from home. It’s helped the travel issues, and WVU has traditionally started well. It defeated Oklahoma State last season for a 1-1 split while going 2-0 the previous three seasons. West Virginia is 4-1 in Big 12 openers, with all four wins coming on the road.

“We’ve been a pretty good road team. I don’t know what would change that,” said Huggins, who has held one practice thus far after the holiday break. “They were OK I guess. They weren’t great. In fairness, we’re trying to give them a bunch of stuff to break it down and work on it, but they could have been better.

West Virginia, up to No. 7 nationally in both major polls after an 11-1 start, flies out Thursday.

“If we don’t play with an edge we’re not very good,” Huggins said of the takeaway from the Fordham game. “We didn’t play with an edge, our pressure was bad. The positive of it was how do you play as bad as we played and score 86 points.