The No. 23 Mountaineers, which beat No. 8 Kansas on Monday, picked up their first ever win in Stillwater with a methodical second half performance spurred by Staten, who sat out the final eight minutes of the first half only to finish with a game-high 22 points and arguably his best all-around performance of the season. Browne added a career-best 18 points as the duo paced the offense, protected the ball and applied a suffocating style on the Cowboys, who never recovered from a 7-0 run that allowed WVU to seize control with 13 minutes to play at 41-31.
It would figure that time to be far too great to slow the game, but Staten and Browne were nearly flawless, milking clock, taking excellent shots and combining to lead an eight of 12 effort from the line over the final three minutes to match a school-record ninth Big 12 win. The victory kept the Mountaineers (21-6, 9-5) squarely in the top half of the league and marked WVU’s 11th win away from home, most in the Big 12, as it advanced to 18-0 this season when holding foes to fewer than 70 points.
“We toughed that one out,” head coach Bob Huggins said on the MSN by IMG postgame radio show. “We had the ball in the right guys’ hands. Their ball security is better than most. Wanny is starting to play again the way he played last year. Gary gets 18, made huge shots. Dax (Miles) got us going. I thought it was a great team effort. You kind of lean on (Staten and Browne) at the end.”
And the beginning and middle. Browne keyed the decisive run with a three-pointer off an assist from Staten, then tacked on two free throws to put the Cowboys down by 10 with 13:07 left. It was part of a larger spurt in which the Mountaineers rallied from behind 29-28 to the 10-point edge by scoring 12 of the game’s 15 points over a four-plus minute span. The teams continued to jostle the margin between eight and 10 points over the next three minutes before Oklahoma State’s 13th turnover led to another Browne three drilled in from the right wing for a 48-35 lead with 10:45 left.
WVU then took a game-high 14-point lead at 55-41 on Browne’s three-pointer with 8:18 left, only to have Oklahoma State claw its way back to within 61-53 with four minutes left. The Cowboys had a chance to get closer after Devin Williams turned the ball over, but a missed three-pointer followed by Williams’ ripped down rebound gave West Virginia possession. Huggins went right back to his senior backcourt, spreading the floor and allowing Browne and Staten to take jumpers or penetrate. They delivered, Browne sinking two free throws to push the lead back to 10 inside three minutes before Staten hit a driving lay-in for a 65-53 lead with 2:31 left.
That signaled the end for Oklahoma State (17-10, 7-8), which never gained the production it was accustomed to from Le’Bryan Nash and Phil Forte. Nash entered averaging 17 points, but finished with just 12 on 3-of-9 shooting before fouling out with 90 seconds left. It was a frustrating performance for the forward, who was guarded by four different Mountaineers in the game. Forte, dogged by Browne throughout, netted 10 points but made just one shot from the floor in the Cowboys’ third consecutive defeat.
“Browne, defensively what he did on Forte and then he gets 18, there’s no doubt he’s the star of the game,” Huggins said.
Williams added nine points and 12 rebounds while Miles scored six. Staten hit nine of 10 shots from the line. Browne was nine for 12, and actually led WVU in offensive rebounding with five, part of his career-high eight. That aspect was a focus of Huggins in the lead-up, and it didn’t go unnoticed, West Virginia outrebounding OSU 37-20, including a massive 18-4 edge on the offensive glass.
“We talked for two days that we had to rebound the basketball,” Huggins said. “We had 22 against Kansas and that was the difference in the game. We come up with 18 here. We get 11 more shots and 12 more free throws and that’s the game.”
A game after having just three second half turnovers, West Virginia bettered that by one with just a pair of miscues over the final 20 minutes in its most crisp display of the year. The Mountaineers forced 15 turnovers, while committing 11 of their own. WVU hit 40 percent from the field to Oklahoma State’s 44.4, but equaled a season high in three-pointers made with 10, shooting 50 percent from the arc.
“We got everybody wide and let Wanny play,” Huggins said. “It all came off everybody trying to run in and help on Wanny. Then we ran some sets and scored off sets. The biggest thing is we rebounded the ball and that kept us in the game.”
The teams were tied 25-25 at the half. The Cowboys led 13-4 over the first eight minutes, aided largely by a trio of threes. But the hot start cooled considerably over the next eight minutes as the Cowboys went from the 12:30 mark to 4:04 without a field goal, a period of 8:26. West Virginia, playing solid halfcourt defense and managing to be near stifling at times with the press, finally got going offensively after missing eight of its first nine shots. The Mountaineers tied the game at 13-13 with 10 minutes left off a 9-0 push; WVU hit four of five field goals during the run, including a pair of lay-ups from Staten, who would pick up his second foul minutes later and depart for the final 8:40.
That didn’t seem to change the pace or play of the game much, as both squads scored 12 points down the stretch. Oklahoma State shot 40 percent to West Virginia’s 32, with the Mountaineers amassing a sizeable rebounding advantage at 19-11, with a 7-1 edge on the offensive glass. WVU had 11 turnovers, OSU eight.
West Virginia’s next game is at home against Texas on Tuesday at 7 p.m.. Fewer than 1,000 tickets remain. There are just 750 tickets left for WVU’s season finale’ and home series meeting with Oklahoma State on March 7. Tip time is 2 p.m.