MORGANTOWN, W.Va. - Oklahoma’s strong second half propelled the Sooners to a 67-57 victory over West Virginia Saturday afternoon in Big 12 Conference basketball action at the WVU Coliseum.
It was the league opener for both teams, although Oklahoma defeated West Virginia, 77-70, in Orlando during Thanksgiving break and will go for the regular season trifecta in Norman on March 6.
“We had shots around the rim and don’t make them,” said West Virginia coach Bob Huggins. “They get shots around the rim and they make them.”
West Virginia used the 3-ball in the first half to build a 35-29 lead at the break, and another Terry Henderson 3 from the wing built West Virginia’s advantage to 10, 41-31, at the beginning of the second half. Then on its next possession, West Virginia got two more on a Juwan Staten layup to give the Mountaineers their biggest lead of the game, 43-31, forcing Oklahoma to call timeout.
After the stoppage in play, the Sooners clamped down on Henderson and eventually chipped away at West Virginia’s lead, getting it to nine on a pair of Romero Osby free throws before a couple more Osby baskets reduced West Virginia’s margin to three, 45-42, with 12:38 remaining.
“We got up 12 and had some good shots and didn’t make them,” said Huggins. “And they iso’d our bigs. Every play was an iso on our bigs and if they didn’t score it they passed it or got fouled.”
Steven Pledger retrieved Cameron Clark’s airball from the wing for an easy bucket to tie the game at 48, and then the Sooners took their first lead since the 10-minute mark of the first half on a Clark dunk that turned into three points when he was fouled by Kevin Noreen on the play and he converted his free throw.
West Virginia scored seven of the next nine points - three of those coming on a 3 from the wing by Jabarie Hinds - to make it 55-51, but Oklahoma immediately answered with a Pledger 3 that hit the rim twice before falling through.
Buddy Hield’s stick-back basket in transition put the Sooners ahead by one, 56-55, and after two more Osby free throws, Hield knocked down another bucket on a short pull-up in the lane to put Oklahoma ahead by five, 60-55.
The dagger came on another Pledger 3 when he slipped free in the corner against West Virginia’s zone defense, putting the Sooners ahead by six, 63-57, with 2:07 left. Osby added another slam dunk ahead of a Hield basket to put the game on ice for Oklahoma, now 10-3, 1-0.
“We got out-manned,” said Huggins. “We went 2-3 zone because I wanted to change things a little bit and we had worked on it for four days. And we don’t get a rebound.”
After making 9 of 19 from 3-point range in the first half, the Mountaineers finished the game 11-of-30 from behind the arc while shooting only 30 percent (18 of 60) for the game. Henderson scored 21 for West Virginia, but 18 of those came in the first half.
“They paid a lot more attention to him,” said Huggins. “They were a lot closer, they were jumping at him; might have bumped him a little bit to get him off balance. They didn’t leave him.”
Osby led Oklahoma with 21 and Pledger added 12.
“We ran out to guys that weren’t shooters and let them drive. We didn’t guard guys who are shooters,” said Huggins. “We need some guys who can go and get a rebound. At the end of the game they just dominated us on the glass. It wasn’t anything other than they wanted the ball more than we did.”
The Sooners had a 40-39 advantage on the glass, but Oklahoma out-rebounded the Mountaineers by five in the second half. OU also kept West Virginia to 57 points – the fifth time the Sooners have held their opponent under 60 points for the season.
“They out-scored us 30-10 in the paint and of the 10, probably eight of those came from (guard) Juwan Staten,” said Huggins. “They get 15 second-chance points and we get eight and I don’t know how we got eight, to be honest.
“If we can’t rebound it maybe we have to play smaller and try and spread people a little bit,” said Huggins.
A season-high 12,112 was announced for today’s inaugural Big 12 men’s basketball game at the WVU Coliseum.
Hinds contributed 11 and Staten added 10 for West Virginia, which falls to 7-6, 0-1 and will face an improving Texas team on Wednesday night in Austin. That game will be televised nationally on ESPN2.