No. 24 West Virginia and Oklahoma State are in the same boat going into Monday night’s Big 12 Conference contest in Stillwater, Okla.
Both teams built double-digit first-half leads on the road Saturday, but then both coughed up those leads with stretches of bad basketball. The Mountaineers led 17-3 at Kansas State but fell 82-76 in overtime, while the Cowboys surrendered a 15-point halftime advantage in a 69-67 defeat at No. 4 Kansas.
Instead of enjoying a solid road win in West Virginia’s case, or scoring a signature road win in Oklahoma State’s case, both have little time to lick their wounds.
“We were passing the ball, we were cutting and we looked like a basketball team,” Mountaineers coach Bob Huggins said of the start of the Kansas State game. “We’re not a very good defensive team, but we were defending better … we just gave the game away.”
West Virginia’s giveaway began with foul trouble. Leading scorer Erik Stevenson drew a personal and a poorly-timed technical on the same second-half possession, then fouled out with 1:25 left in regulation. Point guards Kedrian Johnson and Joe Toussaint also fouled out.
Perhaps the worst part of the loss came at the foul line. Entering the game as a 73.9 percent free-throw shooting team, the Mountaineers (10-3, 0-1 Big 12) bricked their way to a 20-of-38 performance. Mohamed Wague and Jimmy Bell Jr. were a combined 6 of 18.
“We seemingly had the game under control and we had some guys do some really stupid things that enabled them to get back into the game,” Huggins said.
Stevenson’s 13.9 ppg leads four West Virginia players in double figures. The Mountaineers average 80.9 points per game and make nearly 49 percent of their shots from the field.
Their offense should get a challenge from the Cowboys’ elite defense, which puts pressure on the ball and has an excellent rim protector in 7-foot-1 Moussa Cisse. Oklahoma State allows the opposition to hit only 36.8 percent from the field and just 28.4 percent of their 3-point attempts.
On days when the Cowboys (8-5, 0-1) make shots, they can hang with almost anyone. They led 45-30 Saturday at the half in Phog Allen Fieldhouse because they were 9 of 18 from 3-point land. But they couldn’t keep up that pace and eventually lost on a layup by KJ Adams with 5.8 seconds left.
“Played really, really hard,” Oklahoma State coach Mike Boynton said. “We executed our game plan for the most part early. But they’re a championship-caliber team. Knew they wouldn’t go away.”
The Cowboys, who have struggled at times to consistently knock down shots, were only 7 of 25 from the field in the second half. A spate of live-ball turnovers helped Kansas make the comeback.
Bryce Thompson led the way with 23 points against his old team, tying his career high. Thompson, who was 7 of 10 on 3-pointers, leads the team in scoring at 12.4 ppg.
The all-time series between West Virginia and Oklahoma State is tied at 11-11. They split last year’s season series, each team winning by double digits at home.
–Field Level Media