Things didn’t go as planned for No. 21 Oklahoma as they made their way from Norman to Morgantown for their game at West Virginia on Wednesday night. With a winter storm forcing the travel party to re-route its flight to Newark, N.J. on Tuesday, Oklahoma didn’t arrive in Morgantown until just over two hours before the scheduled tip time.
In situations like this one weary legs can be a concern, as is the fact that the players’ pre-game routine has been upset. And in the early stages of this game it was obvious that those problems impacted Oklahoma, with Lon Kruger’s team trailing by as much as 14 early in the second half. But to their credit the Sooners fought back, even holding a three-point lead late in regulation.
West Virginia’s Eron Harris would make the biggest play of regulation, hitting a three-pointer to force overtime. From there the Mountaineers limited Oklahoma to just five points in the extra session, earning a 91-86 overtime victory that Bob Huggins’ team desperately needed.
Harris scored 28 points (26 after halftime) and Juwan Staten added 20, ten rebounds and six assists, with the difference in points from beyond the arc making the difference in the end. West Virginia hit 11 of their 32 attempts on the night, and while that’s too many attempts for this team to be at their best offensively the Mountaineers outscored Oklahoma 33-15 from beyond the arc. Oklahoma attempted 19 three-pointers on the night, with Buddy Hield and Tyler Neal accounting for all five makes.
Isaiah Cousins struggled offensively, shooting just 3-for-13 from the field, and Cameron Clark wasn’t much better (4-for-12). One of Oklahoma’s strengths this season has been their offensive balance, with five players entering the game scoring in double figures. Neal helped pick up the slack some with his 16-point night, but the tough nights endured by Clark and Cousins proved to be too much to overcome.
With home games against Baylor and Texas Tech next on the schedule Oklahoma should be fine. Wednesday’s result is more about a West Virginia team that, while they didn’t pick up any major wins in non-conference play, has some quality opportunities in front of them. West Virginia’s next three games are against Kansas (road), Iowa State (home) and Texas (road), and there are two ways in which they can look at those contests: either as a challenge, or as an opportunity.
Those are difficult games, but they also provide the Mountaineers with shots at quality wins they need for their resume. If West Virginia can execute offensively and take quality shots, they can take advantage of the opportunities ahead of them.