Oklahoma Controls The Boards, Creates Turnovers To Beat West Virginia

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. - West Virginia's issues were part Oklahoma and part self-inflicted mistakes.

One has to give credit. No. 3 Oklahoma came in and took a game in front of the seventh-largest crowd in Coliseum history, and did it without playing its best basketball. The Sooners missed 11 of their first 15 threes, didn't convert in transition, and weren't very efficient on the offensive end. West Virginia's major issue? It was worse.

The No. 10 Mountaineers failed to remotely challenge OU on the boards, getting lambasted 48-37, including 18-15 on the offensive end, a cardinal sin that almost never happens to a Bob Huggins-coached team. Devin Williams had just three boards all game, and the Mountaineer backcourt was outmuscled and outhustled by Oklahoma's Isaiah Cousins and Buddy Hield. That the Sooners were misfiring all over early meant little, because OU was gobbling up offensive rebounds, sometimes two on a single possession.

"The biggest thing is we got destroyed on the glass," Huggins said. "They out rebounded us as bad as we’ve been out rebounded all year. They made more shots than we did. They have Buddy Hield, and we don’t. We generally hold our own on the glass, we didn’t do it today."

West Virginia, meanwhile, continued to turn the ball over, committing 12 themselves while forcing just nine. The Mountaineers routinely threw the ball out of bounds, and couldn't seem to effectively make an entry pass. They also struggled on the perimeter, as Jevon Carter threw a couple balls away and others had them deflected and recovered because the passes weren't to the outside hand.

"Well, you can look at it two ways. Either they are doing a good job or we are doing a bad job," Huggins said. "We’ve got to stop turning the ball over, and I know that’s not going to happen. I’ve said that from the start of the Bahamas trip and we still haven’t. We haven’t stopped turning it over in practice, so the reality is we probably aren’t going to stop turning it over in the game. Some of them though, we throw the ball where there’s nobody even around to throw it to."

West Virginia's guards were also never able to consistently locate opposing players and box them out on the long rebounds that came off OU's missed threes. That, in turn, created additional shots, and with as many step-in chances as the Sooners had, it was a near miracle the Mountaineers remained in the game at the half.

WVU gave up nine offensive rebounds over the first 20 minutes alone while compounding the issue by forcing just four turnovers and committing 10. Oklahoma, the Big 12's best three-point shooting team, made just 4-of-15 to that point, three of those coming from Hield. Without the All-American, the team missed nine of 10, and all 15,289 in the Coliseum knew that run wouldn't continue.

But that wasn't all for West Virginia. The Mountaineers also got to the line just once in the half - that coming with 2:11 left on the clock when Carter hit one of two - while Oklahoma also amassed seven steals. The numerics, frankly, looked like the two teams were wearing opposing jerseys. The Mountaineers were the ones turning the ball over, unable to make an entry pass, getting the ball stolen on the perimeter and giving up added possessions. Meanwhile, Oklahoma was missing threes, and WVU was hitting 50 percent from deep on 5-of-10 shooting. It was as puzzling a half as any this season, and when it settled the differential was just two at 28-26 in favor of the Sooners.

But the statistics, and the mere eye test, told most that this game would most likely belong to Oklahoma, and it eventually did as the law of averages took over and OU began to hit from three while the Mountaineers cooled. After hitting four of its first five shots to take a 37-31 lead, WVU missed 10 of its next 11 and was surprisingly still within 43-41 with 11:50 left before the Sooners began to gradually pull away, pushing its lead to the game's largest at the end on a series of jumpers by Cousins and even more offensive rebounds, which led to putbacks or foul shots.

"That was the whole emphasis," Huggins said of WVU's game plan on the boards. "They got 21 points in Norman on missed shots and kickbacks to guys, fifteen of those were from three. It’s not like we didn’t focus on it or prepare, we just didn’t do it today."

From the time the Mountaineers managed a tie at 52-52 with 7:49 left, Oklahoma scored 24 of the game's final 34 points to secure a season sweep and likely the second spot in the Big 12 regular season standings and the postseason tournament. OU (21-5, 9-5) entered having lost three of four, but now owns the tiebreaker over West Virginia (20-7, 9-5), which seems to be fading a bit with a huge match-up against Iowa State looming on Monday.

And until the Mountaineers begin to show they can put in the effort needed to win at this level, they'll likely continue to slide in the standings.

"You have to prepare to win, that’s the biggest part of it," Huggins said. "Coach (Bob) Knight said ‘everybody has the will to win, but not everybody has the will to prepare to win’. We’re not good enough to just show up and win, we just aren’t. We have to work hard, we have to turn people over like crazy and we have to get more shots off than our opposition."

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