UPDATING THE SOONERS
Since that 89-87 overtime win, the Sooners have gone back into the dumper. Five consecutive losses, including a wipeout at the hands of Florida, have sent OU plummeting to the nether regions of the Big 12. When Jordan Woodard (6-0, 190 lbs.) returned to the lineup back in January, it seemed as if OU might steady its ship, but things have continued to go downhill with a mostly young lineup. Woodard has been good, leading the team with 15.4 points and 3.1 assists per game, but his poor shooting from the field (39.1% overall) and high usage rate (he's taken 38 more shots than anyone else) are negatives.
Freshman Kameron McGusty (6-5, 190 lbs.) has continued to shine, and has bumped his scoring average up to 10.3 since facing the Mountaineers, while sophomore Rashard Odomes (6-6, 210 lbs.) has shown no signs of a second-year slump. He's also advanced during conference play, and now tallies 10.1 points and 3.9 rebounds per game. Add in freshman Kristian Doolittle (6-7, 235 lbs.) who is now at 8.7 and 6.4 respectively, and there's much to be optimistic about, but for now that young group has struggled to protect the ball and shoot it well. OU has three more turnovers than its opponents on the season, and is making just 43% of its shots.
One puzzler on the roster remains junior Khadeem Lattin. Despite owning by far the best shooting percentage on the starting roster (plus a wealth of experience), five other Sooners have attempted more shots – and none are anywhere near his success rate.
Despite those problems, OU has been competitive during the losing streak. Outside of the Florida game, the four losses came by a total of just 16 points, with one of them extending into double overtime. The Sooners are capable, but have been just a couple of plays short of getting over the hump the past three weeks. In a league as competitive as the Big 12, that's all it takes to fall rapidly down in the standings.
Forget the match-ups. This is all about West Virginia's approach to games at this point. WVU should have its attention focused, as the Sooners took a game that they had no business winning earlier this year, and it was about 95% due to the Mountaineers' lackadaisical approach.
|WVU (18-5 / 5-4) vs. Oklahoma (8-24 / 2-8)||Wed Feb 8||9:00 PM EST|
|Noble Center||Norman, OK||Series: OU 9-4|
|RPI: WVU - 34 OU - 160||TV: ESPN||Sirius/XM/SXM: 84/84/84|
That stinging loss should have the Mountaineers at least ready to play on the return visit, but there's simply no predicting whether or not they will be. Unfortunately, this is no time for careless or unfocused play, but that's the biggest obstacle to a win in Norman. Sure, OU has a better lineup than it had in early games when it suffered several losses, but the fact is that it is 2-8 in Big 12 play. If a team wants to be considered as a conference leader, it has to beat foes well below it in the standings the vast majority of the time, and the Mountaineers have already had their full measure of slip-ups in that regard.
On the court, West Virginia's rotation is the thing to keep an eye on in this contest. There's no doubt that Huggins' patience is wearing thin with several players. If nothing else, some animated discussions among the coaches during last Saturday's Oklahoma State loss seemed to indicate some debate over who to play and who to sit. Esa Ahmad and Sagaba Konate were two that fell into the latter category – will they again be on a short leash if they make glaring defensive mistakes?
WVU also needs a productivity boost, anderrors, from Teyvon Myers and Daxter Miles. They have been up and down over the course of the league season, and they must be solid, especially defensively, for the Mountaineers to play toward the higher end of their abilities.
West Virginia has never won a road game against Oklahoma. OU is 13-9 against Top 25 opponents at home under head coach Lon Kruger.
* * * * *
West Virginia is fourth nationally (out of 347 teams) in offensive rebounds. It is 335th nationally in defensive rebounds.
* * * * *
Lamont West scored more points in the loss to Oklahoma State (21), than he did in his previous seven games (19). While West is an improving shooter who gives the Mountaineers a chance to break up some of the zones it sees, it's not likely that he will suddenly become a volume scorer. That's not a criticism – he figures to continue on an upward arc that will round out his game – but for now he's mostly a 3-point shooter. Twenty-five of his 43 field goals have come from beyond the arc.
* * * * *
With a very inexperienced roster, Kruger has done something this year that has not been part of his history. Over the past three seasons, Kruger did not change his starting lineup during the year – a remarkable testament to consistency, as well as lack of injury and belief in the rotation. This year, though, has been a different story. He has employed nine different starting lineups, with the current one posting an 0-5 record. It might not be a surprise to see iteration #10 tonight.