Oklahoma tops WVU
MORGANTOWN -- When Juwan Staten's breakaway layup put West Virginia ahead 43-31 with 17:58 left, the Mountaineers appeared poised for an easy victory over Oklahoma in their inaugural Big 12 contest Saturday.
Instead, the Sooners pulled the welcome wagon out from under WVU's feet, closing out the game with a 16-2 run over the final 5:25 for a 67-57 victory.
"I am really proud of our guys," said Oklahoma coach Lon Kruger. "Anytime you play a good West Virginia club at their place and you are down 12 early in the second half, it is a tough challenge. I thought our guys really responded very well and did just a terrific job of rebounding the basketball on both ends of the floor."
Romero Osby had 21 points and nine rebounds, and Steven Pledger added 12 as the Sooners (10-3, 1-0) beat the Mountaineers (7-6, 0-1) for the second time this year. The two league opponents met in a non-conference game in a Thanksgiving tournament which did not count against the standings.
West Virginia freshman Terry Henderson, who previously scored 23 points in a loss at No. 2 Michigan, was on pace for a career day until midway through the second half. Henderson finished with 21 points on seven 3-pointers, including six in the first half.
"I was getting open looks," he said. "I was getting open looks the whole game. Even when they went to a zone, I was still getting looks. As a team, I think we just got a whole bunch of open looks down low and on the perimeter that we just couldn't complete down the stretch."
Two other Mountaineers finished in double figures--Jabarie Hinds (11) and Staten (10).
West Virginia scored nine 3s in the first half but knocked down only seven field goals after intermission.
"Once our offense gets kind of stagnant, we tend to get stagnant on the defensive end, too," Staten said. "So I can always see it coming, but it's just something we have to fight against."
The Mountaineers, who were in the Big East last year, were up 43-31 after scoring three straight baskets early in the second half -- a three-point play by Hinds, a 3 by Henderson and an easy score by Staten with the Oklahoma players chasing him down the court.
Oklahoma dominated from there. Trailing by 12 points, the Sooners held West Virginia to two field goals over the next 9 1/2 minutes -- Deniz Kilicli's make at the 14:11 mark and a layup by Staten with 9:32 to go. Oklahoma outscored the Mountaineers 15-5 during that time.
"I don't know if our missed shots affect us on the defensive end," Staten said. "I think on the defensive end we just tend to relax a lot. Guarding the ball, we relax and get beat off the dribble, or a guy that's supposed to rotate is relaxing because the ball is on the opposite side of the floor and then his rotation comes, he misses it and they get a basket."
Hinds' 3-pointer increased West Virginia's lead to 55-51, but Oklahoma then outscored West Virginia 12-0 to lead 63-55 with 2:52 left as it closed on a 16-2 run.
After scoring 35 points in the first half, West Virginia ended up with just 22 in the second half. Meanwhile, Oklahoma, which trailed 35-29 at the half, put up 38 after intermission.
That was because the Sooners outshot West Virginia 45.2 percent (14 of 31) to 24.1 percent (7 of 29). The Sooners also won the second-half rebounding battle 23-18.
"A big key in the ball game was that in the first 10 minutes, we got second-chance opportunities and loose (balls) and in the middle portion of the game, they did that," Kruger said. "They got second shots and all the loose balls and then the last few minutes, it kind of swung back our way. I think a lot of times in conference games, it comes down to fifty-fifty balls, the second-shot opportunities and just getting that rebound when it is in your hands and valuing each possession."
"It was kind of hard to see what was going on being in the game, but I know they got a lot of second-chance opportunities that led to and-ones and put backs, that's what gave them the game," said Staten.
Oklahoma got a 3 from Buddy Hield at 2:06 which effectively ended the game at 63-57.
The Sooners outscored West Virginia 30-10 in the paint, 17-11 off turnovers, 15-8 on second-chance points and 15-4 from the bench.
Osby picked up seven second-half rebounds. Hield had seven boards for the game and finished with eight points and five assists. Pledger grabbed four boards and reserve Cameron Clark had six.
Kilicli led West Virginia rebounders with six, followed by Staten with five boards and seven assists. Reserves Gary Browne and Kevin Noreen added five rebounds apiece.
This was the second straight game West Virginia was outscored in the second half. Against Eastern Kentucky on Dec. 30, the Mountaineers won 74-67 even though the Colonels outscored them 45-39 in the second half.
"I think it's our concentration," Staten said. "We just have a problem concentrating over 40 minutes. We kind of play in spurts, and then go (through) droughts where we don't score, or droughts where we can't get a stop, so I think that's concentration."
"Today we got out-toughed," said WVU coach Bob Huggins. "The amazing thing to me is that they act sometimes like that is not the case. I don't know how a guy can continue to rebound the ball and not think that he is tougher than you are because that is what rebounding comes down to. We want to reach for it and they want to go fetch it."