MORGANTOWN -- After a disappointing showing at No. 15 TCU on Tuesday, West Virginia came out red-hot in its return home Saturday against Oklahoma.
The Mountaineers put up 56 points in the first half and Erik Stevenson had a career-high 34 points in the game as WVU cruised by the Sooners 93-61 at the WVU Coliseum.
“I think we finally have realized what we need to do to win in this league. Practices were better; guys were a lot more focused. They understand we’ve got some work to do,” WVU coach Bob Huggins said. “Erik was terrific, and I thought he did a great job of leading and helping with guys.”
Huggins said his WVU (14-9 overall, 3-7 Big 12) team “had very little enthusiasm” and “didn’t come to play” earlier in the week as the Mountaineers fell 76-72 in Fort Worth, Texas, after a big victory over then-No. 15 Auburn at home in the previous game in the SEC/Big 12 Challenge.
They got the opposite -- plenty of energy -- in the return to a sold-out Coliseum on Saturday.
Stevenson scored a career-high 31 points in the win over the Tigers, and kept up his strong play in Morgantown a week later.
He had 23 points in the first half Saturday on 9-of-14 shooting from the field and 5-of-8 firing from the arc as WVU built a 56-30 halftime lead. WVU shot 55% from the field and 58% from the arc over the first 20 minutes.
“It’s the same answer I’ve got to give you from the Auburn game -- I’ve just got to credit my teammates,” Stevenson said. “They were getting me open, they were setting screens, they were finding me when I was open, and they keep instilling confidence in me, man. It’s a different feeling when your teammates are telling you to go get 40.”
Stevenson scored the first points of the game and eight of WVU’s first 10 as the lead came early. As the first half carried on, the Mountaineers’ edge only grew.
Oklahoma (12-11, 2-8) cut its deficit to three with back-to-back 3-pointers from Grant Sherfield at the 9:16 mark, but the Mountaineers dominated the next six minutes with Sooners big man Tanner Groves in foul trouble. WVU went on a 26-4 run, capped off by a 3-pointer from Seth Wilson with 2:41 to play in the period, to grow the lead to 25.
“Where to start?” Oklahoma coach Porter Moser said. “Stevenson, right out of the gate, made some shots, quick release, came around, hit some shots. Tanner Groves got two fouls. … We cut it to five and we were in deep foul trouble, and they opened it up the last six or seven minutes or eight minutes of the half to 20-something.
“They shot it well, and then they went and got their own rebound. We were trying to play with five guards and it’s so hard -- they’re so physical, big. I thought they played so hard defensively. They’re older, physical guys and we didn’t handle it well, and then you combine their physicality on defense to them making shots, and then rebounding the way they rebounded.”
Stevenson stayed hot in the second half, scoring the Mountaineers’ first eight points of the period, including a 3-pointer that put his team up by 29 with 16:04 left.
The Sooners answered with a 9-0 run, but between the under-12 and under-8 media timeouts, WVU went on a 12-1 run and grew the lead to 31 at 76-45. The Mountaineers went on to extend the lead to 34 twice.
Stevenson’s 34 points came on 13-of-23 shooting from the field, including 6 of 11 from the arc. He also had six rebounds and three assists.
Kedrian Johnson added 16 points for WVU and James Okonkwo had his first career double-double, posting 10 points -- including three thunderous dunks -- and 10 rebounds. Eleven Mountaineers scored in the win.
WVU shot 47% from the field, 41% from 3-point range and 77% from the free throw line -- after shooting just 50% on charity tosses in a one-point loss to Oklahoma in Norman earlier this season.
“When a team’s got a hot hand, that’s the opposing team’s main focus, to try to slow them down. That’s when other guys get opportunities to score the ball,” Johnson said. “I think us finding Erik and getting him going early, and then also looking for other guys all down the line [helped].”
Grant Sherfield led Oklahoma with 16 points, but WVU held him to just two in the second half. Joe Bamisile had 14 for the Sooners. The Mountaineers forced Oklahoma to shoot just 37% from the field and 24% from the arc, and WVU blocked nine shots and had 11 steals. Twenty-four of the Mountaineers’ 93 points were scored off of 16 Oklahoma turnovers.
Oklahoma will play at Baylor on Wednesday. The Mountaineers will welcome No. 13 Iowa State to the WVU Coliseum for a 7 p.m. game Wednesday.