WVU gets back to winning formula in OSU win

When Bob Huggins has talked about his West Virginia team and what the Mountaineers have to do if they want to be successful, there are usually three key principles that he returns to time and time again.

Obviously the biggest strength of this team has been its defense and its ability to force turnovers. But forcing 20 turnovers per game doesn't mean much if you're turning it over more than 16 times per game (which the Mountaineers were a few weeks ago as they were in a slump where they dropped three out of four games). Then, a team that doesn't shoot it very well consistently the way West Virginia does needs to get more attempts in order to win a game - which is something that it has been very good at. And to get those extra shots, you have to rebound.

These three simple factors have been something that was missing when the Mountaineers have struggled this season, and the difference is very noticeable in games when WVU takes more shots, outrebounds opponents while also forcing more turnovers.

For the second game in a row, and for only the fifth time during Big 12 play, West Virginia was able to accomplish that feat Saturday against Oklahoma State. WVU took 11 more shots than the Cowboys, had 17 more rebounds and committed two fewer turnovers en route to a 10-point victory in Stillwater. As the Mountaineers move into the final four games of the season with new-found confidence and appearing to be back on track to where they have been toward the start of the season, they will need to find a way to keep that momentum moving in the right direction.

The second half was the best example of WVU getting back to that formula, after heading to the locker room tied at 25 despite trailing 13-4 at the start. Both teams shot 50 percent in the final 20 minutes, but WVU took six more shots, and the Mountaineers doubled Oklahoma State's second-half rebounding total while turning it over only two times while pulling away with a 10-point victory.

West Virginia will have three games against teams currently in the top 25 (a home game against Oklahoma State and road showdowns against Kansas and Baylor) as well as a home game against a Texas team that has had the Mountaineers' number for the last two seasons (beating WVU by an average of 18 points per game in the last four meetings).

WVU is 15-0 when it is successful at those three factors, and is 6-6 when it doesn't. But the biggest thing that matters when you look at how West Virginia can finish this season and how important this formula is going to be is to look at what they do against ranked Big 12 opponents.

In the three games against teams currently in the top 25 when it has done that, the Mountaineers are 3-0 and are winning those games by an average of 11 points per game. When they don't: They're 0-4 and are losing those games by nearly 15 points per game.

There's a reason Bob Huggins brings that up in nearly every press conference he has had this season. Those are the three big reasons why West Virginia has gotten to the point it is at this season, and if they continue doing it they'll be able to have a good finish and head into the postseason with plenty of momentum.

And if a team like this West Virginia group is playing with confidence, it could be very tough to beat in March.


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