Everything appeared to be looking up for No. 10 West Virginia past the mid-way point in the second half. The Mountaineers ripped off a 9-0 run after a technical foul was called on OU’s Ryan Spangler to tie the game at 52, and the WVU Coliseum was bursting with energy.
But like good teams do, the Sooners responded, outscoring the Mountaineers 24-10 from that point on and leaving Morgantown with a season sweep of West Virginia and renewed conference title hopes sitting at 21-5 overall and 9-5 in the league.
On the other side of the coin, West Virginia fell to 20-7 overall and dropped to 9-5 in conference play. While the Mountaineers aren’t mathematically eliminated just yet, they are on thin ice because of the fact they have now been swept by Oklahoma, and split with Kansas.
“It kind of knocks us off a little bit; trying to get to that conference championship. Now we’ve just got to get ready for the conference tournament, try to win out and get the best seed we can get,” said senior guard Jaysean Paige.
With a quick turnaround, the Mountaineers won’t have much time to dwell on this loss, which could break in a positive or negative direction. Paige said despite WVU’s recent rough patch, the mood in the locker room has not changed.
“It’s the same. Nobody’s head is down. We’ve just got to get healthy and get everybody on the same page. Right now the key in the locker room is we’ve just got to win out. The last few games we have left are must-wins,” he said.
Paige played today despite suffering an ankle sprain earlier in the week, and he said he was able to move freely out on the court without much trouble. The same could not be said for sophomore guard Daxter Miles Jr., who missed his second-straight game with a hamstring injury. Paige said getting healthy is priority No. 1 for his team now.
“We’ll just try to win out, and get everybody as healthy as we can right now so everybody is on the floor at the same time. The main part is trying to get everybody healthy. Our strength is in numbers, and we’re kind of down right now. We’ve just got to get everybody ready to go, and get ready for the gritty time; tournament time,” he said.
With all the hype surrounding this nationally televised matchup, Oklahoma was the team that came out of the gate with cool heads. The Sooners opened the game on an 8-2 run, and set a tone in the opening minutes.
“We started off slow. They got a lot of second chance opportunities to start the game off, and they capitalized on them. We played better in the second half, but it was kind of too late. We still had opportunities to come back and win the game. We just couldn’t get over the hump. They were getting a lot of second chance shots…A lot of those second chance opportunities lead to open threes. We’ve got to just cut down on those,” Paige said.
The Sooners were aided by 29 points from their Wooden Award hopeful guard Buddy Hield, who gave the Mountaineers fits from deep hitting five 3-pointers on the afternoon. West Virginia was led by Tarik Phillip, who came off the bench to score 17 points.
The road ahead for West Virginia certainly won’t be easy, as the Mountaineers take on No. 13 Iowa State in Morgantown Monday night, then finish with two road games in their last three against Oklahoma State and No. 25 Baylor.