Amath M’Baye scored 19 points and Je’lon Hornbleak added 14 to lead Oklahoma to a 77-70 victory over West Virginia in the third place game of the Old Spice Classic at HP Field House in Lake Buena Vista, Fla.
After trailing by four early at 12-8, Oklahoma (4-1) built a 12-point lead midway through the first half and had a 42-37 advantage at the break.
But West Virginia was able to come back and regain the lead, 63-62, with 6:32 remaining on a pair of Gary Browne
free throws. The Mountaineers (1-3) then went scoreless on three consecutive possessions, allowing the Sooners to go on a 7-0 run to make it 69-63 after a Hornbeak 3 with 4:21 left.
’s jumper ended West Virginia's drought with four minutes to go, which came ahead of a key sequence in the game with 1:54 remaining and the Mountaineers trailing by five, 71-66.
Oklahoma’s Steven Pledger was called for a foul on West Virginia’s Deniz Kilicli
while Kilicli was trying to establish offensive position, but after going to the replay monitor the officials also called Kilicli for a dead ball foul. Kilicli made one of two from the line while Pledger hit both of his free throws at the other end, and then on Oklahoma’s next possession, the Sooners were able to get two more free throws from M’Baye when he was fouled by Staten while attempting to dunk an alley oop pass.
“We’ve got this rule that if you hit anybody with an elbow or your arm, purposely or inadvertently, then it’s a flagrant foul. He got fouled and his arm came up, which happens, and he catches his arm under the guy’s chin,” said West Virginia coach Huggins. “They get to pick who they want shooting their free throws, they make two, Deniz makes one for two, they get the ball and now we’re out of the game.”
Two more Pledger free throws after that gave the Sooners a 77-69 lead with 38 seconds left.
“They’re a good team and (Oklahoma coach) Lon (Kruger) has done a really good job with them … but the bottom line is we’re not tough enough and we’re not mentally tough enough yet,” said Huggins.
Staten led West Virginia with 15, Kilicli scored 13 (all in the second half) and Browne came off the bench to contribute 13 – 10 of those coming from the free throw line. Overall, West Virginia was 24 of 34 from the line while Oklahoma hit 19 of 25.
The Mountaineers once again struggled shooting the basketball, hitting 21 of 58 for 36.2 percent. The Sooners were much better, making 27 of their 57 shot attempts for 47.4 percent. Oklahoma outscored West Virginia 32-20 in the paint.
“We throw it close four consecutive times, we throw it in the paint and we come up empty,” said Huggins. “You can’t do that. You either have to have guys you can run screens for and they’re going to run off screens and make shots or you’ve got to be able to throw it close, and hopefully good teams can do both.”
The Mountaineers were also unable to cash in on several transition opportunities when they had the numbers in their favor.
“We had at least three two-on-ones and we didn’t convert any of them,” said Huggins. “That’s just bad basketball and twice it was our guards.”
Today’s Oklahoma game was the third tough opponent the Mountaineers have faced in four games so far this year, West Virginia also falling to Gonzaga and Davidson - playing in tonight's championship game.
“I’ve always played a tough non-conference schedule but the problem with that is if you don’t win enough games you’re not going to go to the NCAA tournament,” said Huggins. “The flip side of that is you’re supposed to be rewarded for playing them. You look at who we’ve played and the people we’ve played so far are going to win games, other than maybe one.”
Although both teams are in the Big 12, this game does not count in the league standings.
West Virginia returns to the Coliseum to face VMI on Wednesday night in a 7 p.m. game that will be televised locally on Root Sports.