West Virginia Travels to Oklahoma for a Saturday Afternoon Clash

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – West Virginia will take another crack at getting into the win column in Big 12 play on Saturday afternoon at Oklahoma.
The 10-6, 1-3 Sooners own a conference victory in overtime over Texas Tech on Jan. 7 and narrow league defeats to Texas (one point), Iowa State (three points) and Kansas (four points).
“They’re a veteran team,” West Virginia coach Bob Huggins said via Zoom Friday morning prior to the team’s charter flight out to Oklahoma. “They don’t have a bunch of young guys or a bunch of portal guys, they have a bunch of guys who came back from last year to try and have a better year this year, I would assume.” 
In the Kansas loss on Tuesday night, the Sooners trailed by two at halftime and overcame a seven-point deficit early in the second half to take the lead. OU expanded its margin to 10 points with 5:19 left before Kansas came alive.
Kansas closed the game with runs of seven and nine points to pin a third conference defeat on the Sooners.
Grant Shearfield, a 6-foot-2 senior guard, poured in a game-high 25 points on 9-of-15 shooting for OU. Sam Goodwin came off the bench to match his season high with 12 points, while 6-foot-10 senior forward Tanner Groves produced his 10th double-double of the season with 10 points and 10 rebounds.
Shearfield currently ranks fifth in the Big 12 in scoring averaging 17.4 points per game. The Fort Worth, Texas, resident is shooting 45.2% from the floor and has made a team-best 40 3s.
Groves is also contributing 10.7 points and 7.4 rebounds per game and really hurt West Virginia in a pair of Sooner victories last year. He scored 21 points and grabbed nine rebounds in Oklahoma’s 72-62 win in Morgantown and scored 17 and had 10 boards in a 72-59 victory in Norman late in the season.
“They’re as good as anybody in the game at slowing down the pace and making people defend for an extended period of time,” Huggins said. “The purpose of playing slower is to make people guard longer into there is a breakdown. We haven’t really had to play against that a whole lot, but our guys know what’s coming.”
The Lloyd Noble Center has been a very difficult venue for West Virginia, the Mountaineers winning just twice there in 10 meetings. WVU’s last win in Norman came on Feb. 5, 2018, when it clipped the Sooners 75-73. 
West Virginia’s only other victory there was a 61-50 triumph on Feb. 8, 2017.
The Mountaineers (10-6, 0-4) dropped an 83-78 decision to Baylor on Tuesday night to fall to 0-4 in conference play. It was the third time in four games West Virginia was unable to hold on to a second-half lead. WVU led the Bears 59-54 with 7:52 left before poor free throw shooting reared its ugly head.
West Virginia missed 18 free throws in its six-point overtime loss at Kansas State, 11 free throws in its seven-point loss at Oklahoma State, 10 free throws in its 76-62 defeat to Kansas and nine free throws against the Bears.
The Mountaineers are shooting just 62.2% from the line in their four conference games while shooting 70.1% overall.
Guard Erik Stevenson and forward Tre Mitchell are West Virginia’s top two scorers, Stevenson averaging 13.8 points per game while Mitchell is scoring at a 13.4 points-per-game clip. Mitchell had 14 points and 15 rebounds in Tuesday night’s loss to Baylor.
“I thought we really competed in the Baylor game,” Huggins said. “In this league, teams are so close and a missed shot here, a missed free throw or a difficult call can change games because they are all so close. They made tough shots at the end of the game, and we didn’t, and we missed free throws once again down the stretch.”
Despite the four-game losing streak, West Virginia’s computer numbers are still solid. The Mountaineers are No. 29 in the latest NCAA NET rankings, 30th in the BPI and 44th in the RPI.
WVU is also 27th in the latest Kenpom rankings – 30th in defensive efficiency and 42nd in offensive efficiency.
“I think this team is going to be a good team – it’s going to be an NCAA Tournament team and a team that’s going to compete in the hardest league in the country, and compete very well,” Huggins said. “This league has been an adjustment for a lot of our guys and the reality is it isn’t like we haven’t competed, or not had opportunities. We’re 0-4 and we very well could be 3-1.”
Before taking questions this morning, Huggins read a brief statement on the decision to part ways with associate head coach Larry Harrison.
“The decision to make a change within our basketball staff was a difficult one. Larry and I have worked together for 24 years and shared many great moments,” he began. “The decision was made in the best interests of Mountaineer basketball.”
He declined to take any questions regarding the matter.
Saturday’s game will tip off at noon and will be televised nationally on ESPN2 (Chuckie Kempf and Tim Welsh). Mountaineer Sports Network radio coverage with Tony Caridi and studio host David Kahn gets things underway at 11 a.m. on stations throughout West Virginia and online via WVUsports.com and the mobile apps WVU Gameday and The Varsity Network.
Satellite radio coverage is on SiriusXM channel 381.

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