Oklahoma State had lost 12 consecutive games to top 25 teams, and not many people gave them a chance Saturday in West Virginia against the same team the Cowboys lost to by 17 points on their home court. But the Cowboys made the plays down the stretch to defeat the seventh-ranked Mountaineers 82-75 before a sell-out crowd of 14,000 at WVU Coliseum in Morgantown, W. Va.
The Cowboys won over a top-25 team for the first time since Jan. 19, 2016 (winning 86-67 over No. 3 Kansas) to improve to 15-8 overall and 4-6 in the Big 12. Also, they have now won three straight Big 12 road games (Texas Tech, Oklahoma and West Virginia) for the first time since the 2012-13 team won five in a row away from Gallagher-Iba Arena. West Virginia falls to 18-5 and 6-4.
The Cowboys were the aggressors against the same West Virginia team that pushed them around on Dec. 30 en route to a 92-75 victory. But first-year head coach Brad Underwood’s team jumped out to a 12-2 lead and was the tougher and more aggressive team in winning their fifth game in a row after opening Big 12 play with six losses.
"I was really proud of our guys today," Underwood said. "There was some fight. It was execution of the game plan, and we did an unbelievable job. We gave up 50 points in the paint in the first game and most of those were layups, and even though they hit threes it was out of their character. So I thought we really grew up there. Our fight was much better."
OSU’s two leading scorers – Jawun Evans (18.3 ppg) and Jeff Carroll (17.2) – had 10 turnovers against the Mountaineers in the 17-point loss. But after scoring just 24 points in that game in December, Carroll and Evans combined for 38 points and just five turnovers on 13-of-18 shooting from the field and 9-of-10 free throws.
Carroll scored 17 of his 20 points in the first half, and then Evans and Phil Forte showed why they have to be considered the Big 12’s best backcourt as they combined to score 27 of OSU’s 42 points in the second half.
"Late in the game, great backcourt (play by Jawun and Phil)," Underwood said. "Each of them kind of had a silly turnover that we had to clean up, but for the most part it was their game. They directed the game, made the free throws, made the plays."
The Cowboys shot a season-best 62.5 percent (25 of 40) and were 24 of 27 from the foul line (88.9 percent).
But it’s easy to shoot better than 62 percent when most of your shots are from inside the paint. Sixteen of the Cowboys 25 baskets were layups, and 56 of the team’s 82 points came on layups and free throws.
In the second half, after trailing 44-40 at halftime, the Cowboys outscored the Mountaineers 42-31 and 34 of those points came on layups and free throws.
The Cowboys made 11 field goals in the second half and eight of those were layups. Carroll led the way with 20 points on 7-of-11 shooting, Evans with 18 points (14 in the second half), five assists and four rebounds, and Forte contributed 13 points (all in the second half) and five rebounds.
Underwood also praised Davon Dillard (eight points and five rebounds in 25 minutes) and Mitchell Solomon (five points, six rebounds and four assists and only two fouls in 32 minutes).
"I'm really proud of Davon Dillard, 25 minutes is probably the most he's ever played in his career at Oklahoma State," he said. "I can't say how touch Mitchell Solomon is. He really rolled his ankle yesterday and gutted through it for 32 minutes, and it was big body after big body (from West Virginia) slamming into him."
The Cowboys will be back home for two games next week, beginning with Wednesday night’s showdown with No. 2 Baylor. Tip is at 6 p.m. inside Gallagher-Iba Arena. The Cowboys lost to the Bears 61-57 on Jan. 7 in Waco.