Preview: WVU - Oklahoma State

Fresh off a win over Kansas, and rested after getting a couple of days off following that win, West Virginia jumps back into the fire with a road trip to Oklahoma State.


SCOUTING THE COWBOYS

Like just about every other team in the Big 12, Oklahoma State has seen stretches of good wins countered by some tough losses. Most recently, OSU ripped off three consecutive wins against Top 25 teams (Texas, Kansas and Baylor), but have since dropped contests to TCU and Iowa State. Faced with the potential of losing a third straight game (and a second consecutive home contest), look for head coach Travis Ford's team to come out with a great effort against the Mountaineers.

Forward LeBryan Nash (6-7, 235 lbs.) leads the Cowboy attack with 17 points per contest, and adds 5.7 rebounds per outing. He combines a long wingspan with a lot of strength, and is a tough match-up for most defenders. He's supported by Michael Cobbins (6-8, 230 lbs.), who contributes an identical 5.7 boards per game, and more importantly doesn't steal shots from the scorers on the team. He makes 61% of his attempts, and is also the squad's best interior defender.

Guard Phil Forte (5-11, 185 lbs.) continues as one of the premier 3-point shooting threats in the nation. More than half of his buckets have come from distance, and coupled with his 85% accuracy mark from the line, he's pouring in 16.5 points per game. He's not a one-trick pony, however. He's become a pesky defensive player (54 steals) and stays on the court more than any other Cowboy. Anthony Hickey (5-11, 185 lbs.) is the putative playmaker with a 92-41 assist-to-turnover ratio, but he's also put up 228 shots (41.7%) from the field, and can make some bad decisions that hurt his team's offensive play. Jeff Newberry (6-2, 190 lbs.) is the expected fifth starter, and has played well over OSU's last four contests, boosting his season scoring average to 6.7 ppg with 48 points over that span.

The Cowboys put a five-man substitution rotation on the floor, with all averaging between ten and 12.6 minutes per game. None are volume scorers or rebounders, but combined the group averages 11 points and nine rebounds per contest.


OUTLOOK

For WVU, one key rules this game over all others -- cover Phil Forte.

BlueGoldNews.com
Game Info
Sat Feb 21
2:00 PM E
Gallagher-Iba Arena

Stillwater, OK
Records
WVU 20-6, 8-5
OSU 17-9, 7-7
Series
OSU 4-1
TV
ESPNews
Sirius/XM
91/91
RPI
WVU - 26
OSU - 28
That may sound over-simplistic, but the junior sniper has hit the Mountaineers for 48 points in three of the teams' last four meetings. West Virginia simply can't afford to give him open shots, because he gets enough on his own. The Cowboys screen and rescreen for him constantly, and Forte has added the ability to create his own shot off the dribble, which makes him even more dangerous. As soon as he crosses into the front court, WVU must pick him up, and can't leave him to play help side defense or double team. If it does, it will pay the consequences. The Mountaineers hope for a performance like the one they got two years ago in Morgantown, where Forte was 0-5 from the field and got just a pair of free throws in 18 minutes of action.

That doesn't mean that West Virginia can ignore the other Cowboys on the court. As noted above, OSU has quality players. But the Mountaineers aren't going to be able to overcome a 25-point scoring explosion from Forte, who triggers shots like a Gatling gun. The Mountaineers must contest every attempt and keep him below his 3-point field goal percentage of 40.8%.

A key on the OSU side is Hickey, who as mentioned above, can get out of control at times. It's not that he makes terrible plays, but he sometimes forces quick shots and takes chances away from Forte and Nash. If West Virginia's pressure can get him playing too fast and making bad decisions, that could be a path to victory.

Ball security also figures to be an important aspect of the game. While West Virginia's steals and turnovers forced are the best in the nation, Oklahoma State posts some impressive stats of its own. The team is second in the Big 12 in steals and turnover margin, and also ranks highly nationally in blocked shots, field goal percentage defense and scoring defense.


FAST BREAKS

West Virginia's steal total of 307 continues to lead the nation, but that is still 100 swipes short of the school record of 407, set in 1997-98. With at least seven games left to play this year, the Mountaineers would have to average a bit more than 14 thefts per contests to eclipse that mark.

The 1997-98 squad was led by Damian Owens' 97 steals, but also had big totals from Jarrod West (77), Adrian Pledger (52) and Greg Jones (51). It finished the year at 24-9 and with a Sweet 16 appearance.

* * *

Oddly enough for a winning team, OSU doesn't hold a rebounding edge over its opponents. It is getting outrebounded by one per game over the course of the season. That margin has jumped to -4.5 in Big 12 games.

* * *

Juwan Staten figures to move into seventh place on West Virginia's career assists list in this game. With 408 dishes, Staten is just two behind Alex Ruoff, who amassed 410 in a very underrated career. Greg Jones (1980-83) is next on the list at 430.

* * *

If the game is close and comes down to free throw tries, OSU has a distinct advantage. As a team, the Cowboys are hitting 72% of their tries, as opposed to 64.9% for the Mountaineers.


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Like just about every other team in the Big 12, Oklahoma State has seen stretches of good wins countered by some tough losses. Most recently, OSU ripped off three consecutive wins against Top 25 teams (Texas, Kansas and Baylor), but have since dropped contests to TCU and Iowa State. Faced with the potential of losing a third straight game (and a second consecutive home contest), look for head coach Travis Ford's team to come out with a great effort against the Mountaineers.

Forward LeBryan Nash (6-7, 235 lbs.) leads the Cowboy attack with 17 points per contest, and adds 5.7 rebounds per outing. He combines a long wingspan with a lot of strength, and is a tough match-up for most defenders. He's supported by Michael Cobbins (6-8, 230 lbs.), who contributes an identical 5.7 boards per game, and more importantly doesn't steal shots from the scorers on the team. He makes 61% of his attempts, and is also the squad's best interior defender.

Guard Phil Forte (5-11, 185 lbs.) continues as one of the premier 3-point shooting threats in the nation. More than half of his buckets have come from distance, and coupled with his 85% accuracy mark from the line, he's pouring in 16.5 points per game. He's not a one-trick pony, however. He's become a pesky defensive player (54 steals) and stays on the court more than any other Cowboy. Anthony Hickey (5-11, 185 lbs.) is the putative playmaker with a 92-41 assist-to-turnover ratio, but he's also put up 228 shots (41.7%) from the field, and can make some bad decisions that hurt his team's offensive play. Jeff Newberry (6-2, 190 lbs.) is the expected fifth starter, and has played well over OSU's last four contests, boosting his season scoring average to 6.7 ppg with 48 points over that span.

The Cowboys put a five-man substitution rotation on the floor, with all averaging between ten and 12.6 minutes per game. None are volume scorers or rebounders, but combined the group averages 11 points and nine rebounds per contest.


For WVU, one key rules this game over all others -- cover Phil Forte. That may sound over-simplistic, but the junior sniper has hit the Mountaineers for 48 points in three of the teams' last four meetings. West Virginia simply can't afford to give him open shots, because he gets enough on his own. The Cowboys screen and rescreen for him constantly, and Forte has added the ability to create his own shot off the dribble, which makes him even more dangerous. As soon as he crosses into the front court, WVU must pick him up, and can't leave him to play help side defense or double team. If it does, it will pay the consequences. The Mountaineers hope for a performance like the one they got two years ago in Morgantown, where Forte was 0-5 from the field and got just a pair of free throws in 18 minutes of action.

That doesn't mean that West Virginia can ignore the other Cowboys on the court. As noted above, OSU has quality players. But the Mountaineers aren't going to be able to overcome a 25-point scoring explosion from Forte, who triggers shots like a Gatling gun. The Mountaineers must contest every attempt and keep him below his 3-point field goal percentage of 40.8%.

A key on the OSU side is Hickey, who as mentioned above, can get out of control at times. It's not that he makes terrible plays, but he sometimes forces quick shots and takes chances away from Forte and Nash. If West Virginia's pressure can get him playing too fast and making bad decisions, that could be a path to victory.

Ball security also figures to be an important aspect of the game. While West Virginia's steals and turnovers forced are the best in the nation, Oklahoma State posts some impressive stats of its own. The team is second in the Big 12 in steals and turnover margin, and also ranks highly nationally in blocked shots, field goal percentage defense and scoring defense.



West Virginia's steal total of 307 continues to lead the nation, but that is still 100 swipes short of the school record of 407, set in 1997-98. With at least seven games left to play this year, the Mountaineers would have to average a bit more than 14 thefts per contests to eclipse that mark.

The 1997-98 squad was led by Damian Owens' 97 steals, but also had big totals from Jarrod West (77), Adrian Pledger (52) and Greg Jones (51). It finished the year at 24-9 and with a Sweet 16 appearance.

* * *

Oddly enough for a winning team, OSU doesn't hold a rebounding edge over its opponents. It is getting outrebounded by one per game over the course of the season. That margin has jumped to -4.5 in Big 12 games.

* * *

Juwan Staten figures to move into seventh place on West Virginia's career assists list in this game. With 408 dishes, Staten is just two behind Alex Ruoff, who amassed 410 in a very underrated career. Greg Jones (1980-83) is next on the list at 430.

* * *

If the game is close and comes down to free throw tries, OSU has a distinct advantage. As a team, the Cowboys are hitting 72% of their tries, as opposed to 64.9% for the Mountaineers.

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