Oklahoma Busts Press, West Virginia

Oklahoma had the kryptonite to Press Virginia as the No. 21 Sooners used a lethal combination of ball movement and spacing in a 71-52 win over the 15th-ranked Mountaineers.

West Virginia, which entered with three-game Big 12 winning streak, had that soundly snapped by an OU team that avoided the dreaded double team traps via excellent movement, solid ball protection and the ability to finish in transition in advantageous situations. The Mountaineers? They seemed as ill at ease for most of the game as their past foes, including an Oklahoma team that had lost by 21 in Morgantown just three weeks ago.

The difference? Instead of wilting under the relentless pressure, the Sooners pounded West Virginia with quick inbounds passes that were then funneled to the middle of the floor, where OU could capitalize on superior numbers and spread sets that allowed open three-pointers and easy conversions around the bucket. WVU, meanwhile, forced a season-low 13 turnovers and never gained consistency on offense. The Mountaineers managed just 25 points outside of Juwan Staten (15) and Gary Browne (12) while not shooting a free throw until there were less than nine minutes remaining. Oklahoma had four players in double figures, led by Big 12 leading scorer Buddy Hield’s 21 points.

“Our pressure was not very good,” head coach Bob Huggins said on the MSN by IMG postgame radio show. “There’s no excuse. We practiced two hours yesterday and a lot of that was going over their stuff and what they were going to do. We maybe went up and down for 20 minutes.”

West Virginia (18-4, 6-3) was without second-leading scorer Devin Williams, who missed the game because of illness. That eight-point, 11-rebound void hurt, but even the presence of Williams (14 points, eight rebounds in the first series meeting) wouldn’t have closed the execution chasm in the game. OU (15-7, 6-4) allowed 55 bench points in the loss at WVU, but held the Mountaineers to just 13 in this game while scoring 11 of their own. That, combined with West Virginia’s lack of scoring punch from its starting five and an abysmal five of 26 from three-point range crushed any hopes of a national-best 11th victory away from home.

“They shoot 61 percent for the game. We had no discipline,” said Huggins, who took three timeouts by the 8:32 mark in trying to make adjustments to the pressure and get his team to better attack the interior on the offensive end. “Our bigs ran out of the basket and they gave them open looks. We didn’t do a very good job. I am extremely frustrated with the way we played.”

The game was never close from the start. WVU did get 17 more shots, but failed to make even 35 percent. Oklahoma, because of the lay-ins in transition off the press break, hit 61.4 percent from the field. The Sooners outscored West Virginia 27-8 on points off turnovers.

Oklahoma led 38-24 at the half. The Sooners used a 13-0 run to take a 27-11 lead with 12 minutes played. The lead later ballooned to as many as 19 at 34-15 on a Hield three-pointer just inside the four-minute mark. From there, the Mountaineers clawed back by closing with nine of the final 13 points. Still, the damage was done, OU having hit a sizzling 61.5 percent (16-of-26) from the floor via a series of lay-ups and dunks after breaking WVU’s pressure. The Mountaineers, meanwhile, often settled for outside looks and missed 11 of 13 threes. Sans Staten, who made five of seven for 11 points, WVU missed 16 of 22 shots to shoot just 32 percent.

The 14-point edge at the break was cut inside 10 multiple times, but West Virginia never managed to piece together enough plays while trying to overcome not only their own poor shooting and inability to penetrate at times, but also an Oklahoma defense that ranks second in the nation in opponent scoring rate in the halfcourt. The Sooners, who were not called for a foul for the first 9:23 of the game, are now 10-1 at home (KSU), while West Virginia lost its second road game of the season.


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