West Virginia looks for turnaround vs. Oklahoma State

NCAA Basketball
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No. 17 West Virginia will look to get back on track after a brutal stretch when it hosts Oklahoma State on Tuesday in Morgantown, W.Va.

The Mountaineers (18-7, 6-6 Big 12) dropped a 69-59 game at Oklahoma on Feb. 8, then had to play No. 3 Kansas and No. 1 Baylor in back-to-back games. They lost both, including 70-59 to the Bears in Waco, Texas, on Saturday, when West Virginia trailed by 29 points in the second half.

At least West Virginia will have the home court for Tuesday’s Big 12 clash. The Mountaineers have won 12 of 13 home games this season, a streak that was snapped by the Jayhawks last week.

On Saturday, Taz Sherman led West Virginia with 20 points off the bench. Oscar Tshiebwe added 11 points and 12 rebounds for the Mountaineers.

Baylor’s stifling defense forced West Virginia into 22 turnovers, and the Bears had 42 points in the paint to just 14 for West Virginia, a team that usually rules the lane.

“The sky isn’t falling,” West Virginia coach Bob Huggins said after the loss at Baylor.

“If there’s a positive, most of our guys continue to play, continue to fight it. We did some dumb things where the game could have been closer, could have gotten it closer and a little more manageable. It isn’t over but certain things have to change.”

Oklahoma State (13-12, 3-9) heads to Morgantown on the heels of a 73-70 home win over then-No. 24 Texas Tech on Saturday. The Cowboys have won three of their past four games after starting the conference season 0-8.

That turnaround has coincided with Oklahoma State’s conviction to attack the lane rather than settling for 3-pointers. The Cowboys continually drove the ball inside against Texas Tech and ended up either making shots at the rim or getting fouled.

“These past seven, eight games we’ve actually found our identity, and that’s in the paint playing inside-out,” Oklahoma State forward Jonathan Laurent said. “It’s what we do well, so we’re going to keep on doing it.”

Oklahoma State was 31 of 38 from the free-throw line in the victory, with Isaac Likekele canning three from the charity stripe down the stretch as part of his 14 points. Kalib Boone and Laurent led Oklahoma State with 16 points each, and Cameron McGriff had 10 points and grabbed nine rebounds.

“Our job as a staff is to find ways to still have success,” Cowboys coach Mike Boynton said. “We’ve done it through our defense, rebounding, and trying to get to the free-throw line a little more and driving to the basket.

“You got to give credit to the players for making the adjustments, though. It doesn’t work if they try to fight it. If you can be something every day, then you have a chance to build some continuity in the way you succeed.”

West Virginia won the first meeting of the year against the Cowboys, 55-41 in Stillwater on Jan. 6. Oklahoma State committed 19 turnovers and shot 29.2 percent from the field (14 of 48), including 1 of 20 from 3-point range.

–Field Level Media

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