West Virginia battled the nation’s 11th-ranked team toe to toe Saturday afternoon, but in the end Oklahoma State had just enough players left to come away with an 81-75 victory Saturday afternoon at Gallagher-Iba Arena in Stillwater, Okla.
Six players were disqualified and 56 fouls were called as both teams marched to the free throw line a combined 66 times.
Oklahoma State knocked down 25 of its free throw attempts, including six in a row from Phil Forte inside of 40 seconds remaining to help give the Cowboys the season sweep over West Virginia. Two week ago in Morgantown, Oklahoma State came away with a 73-72 victory when Juwan Staten
’s last-second driving layup attempt didn’t go down.
Today, it was Le’Bryan Nash who did most of the damage for Oklahoma State, the junior forward scoring a career-high 29 points and grabbing nine rebounds before fouling out with 1:40 remaining in the game. At the time Nash was disqualified, Oklahoma State was leading by five, 75-70.
Marcus Smart also fouled out to finish the game with a season-low 4 points on 1 of 7 shooting.
For West Virginia (11-9, 3-4), four players were sent to the bench, including the team’s leading scorer Eron Harris
, who departed shortly after burying a 3 with 3:51 left to reduce West Virginia’s deficit to three, 70-67.
“It’s frustrating but we’re close,” said West Virginia coach Bob Huggins. “We’re real close to being really good. We’re a little short on the front line, but I think we’re close to being really good.”
Oklahoma State (16-3, 4-2) didn’t take its first lead until 3:45 left in the first half when Nash converted a conventional three-point play, but the Cowboys used a 10-0 run that featured a pair of thunderous dunks by Markel Brown and Nash near the end of the half.
After the break, WVU got nine straight points from Harris to tie the game at 44, and it was still anyone’s game at the under-eight timeout when Adrian’s follow-up bucket tied it at 60.
But consecutive three-point plays by Nash, one coming when he slipped by Adrian on an inbounds play underneath the basket, and then another Nash jumper built Oklahoma State’s lead to eight, 68-60. The Cowboys’ biggest lead of the game was nine, 70-61, with 5:11 left on a Smart basket inside.
“We gave up 17 points on out-of-bounds plays,” said Huggins. “Sometimes we didn’t switch when we were supposed to switch.”
Harris responded with back-to-back 3s, and later five straight points from Adrian and Williams made it a 75-72 game with 1:40 remaining.
West Virginia had an opportunity to tie the game with 49 seconds left, but Adrian couldn’t convert from long distance and that’s when Forte took care of things from the free throw line.
“If we’re going to win games like this those are going to have to go down,” said Huggins of West Virginia’s opportunity to tie it inside of a minute to go.
In addition to Nash’s 29, Brown scored 15 and pulled down 10 rebounds while Forte finished with 13.
Staten added 19 for West Virginia.
“We’ve just got to keep working, keep our heads up, and go win some games,” said Huggins. “People who say it’s just like last year, no, it’s not like last year. These guys compete like crazy and we’re young and we’re going to be very good.”
Oklahoma State’s average margin of victory this year in Gallagher-Iba Arena was 32 points heading into today’s game, the closest point difference before this afternoon being Texas’ 13-point loss back on Jan. 8.
West Virginia remains on the road to face Baylor on Tuesday night in Waco. The Bears were soundly defeated at home by Texas earlier today, 74-60.
“We can’t do what we did the last time we played these guys and then just really had no enthusiasm when Texas came in (following WVU’s first loss to Oklahoma State),” said Huggins. “We’ve got to go to Baylor with great enthusiasm and go back and try and win a game. We’re a good enough team to beat virtually anybody, we’ve been so close and haven’t done it.”
Tuesday night’s game will tip off at 7 p.m. and will also be televised nationally on ESPN2.