Conference realignment has led to the disappearance (for the time being) of some of college basketball’s best rivalries. But it pulled off a new “trick” at the Old Spice Classic.
West Virginia and Oklahoma both committed to the event before the Mountaineers left the Big East to join the Big 12, and as a result of WVU’s move there was a chance that the two programs could meet in Orlando.
The Sooners (4-1) struck the first blow in the season series, winning the third place game at the Old Spice Classic by the final score of 77-70 (this one obviously isn’t a conference game). Wyoming transfer Amath M’Baye paced the winners with 19 points and six rebounds, and freshman guard Je’lon Hornbeak added 14 and five rebounds.
Juwan Staten (15 points) and Deniz Kilicli (13 points) were the lone West Virginia (1-3) starters to reach double figures (Gary Browne added 13 off the bench), but the Mountaineers shot just 36% from the field in a game that featured 48 fouls and 59 free throws.
If there’s anything to be taken out of this game with an eye toward their two Big 12 meetings it’s how physical the game was, although it can be argued that the officials were a little too active when it came to keeping things “under control”. The last time two Big 12 teams met in a regular season non-conference game was back in 1996, when Texas played Nebraska. The Longhorns won 83-81.
Both Oklahoma and West Virginia are teams more than a few pundits believe are capable of surprising people in the Big 12 this season, with the Sooners picked to finish 7th and the Mountaineers 6th. Both are incorporating key transfers into the rotation, so early season growing pains were to be expected.
West Virginia entered the tournament with three transfers in their starting lineup but head coach Bob Huggins made the decision to move Matt Humphrey (Boston College transfer) to the bench. Terry Henderson was productive off the bench (14 points, six rebounds) in the blowout win over Marist on Thursday, but struggled in his first start of the season on Sunday (1-of-6 FG, two points).
The hope in Morgantown is that with time and on-court experience Humphrey, Staten and Aaric Murray will mesh with their teammates, and the same can be said of a partnership between M’Baye and senior Romero Osby (foul trouble limited him to just 17 minutes) for Oklahoma.
The next meeting between these two teams is on January 5 in the Big 12 opener for both.
Raphielle also writes for the NBE Basketball Report and can be followed on Twitter at @raphiellej.