Most college basketball games are a lot like major golf tournaments: You can’t win a game in the first half, but you can sure lose one.
Just ask No. 9 West Virginia, which put itself in a hole it couldn’t dig out of Saturday at Oklahoma. During their 75-71 Big 12 Conference loss to the Sooners, the Mountaineers fell behind 38-20 at halftime, largely because they made only 7 of 30 shots from the field.
West Virginia(8-3, 1-2 Big 12) aims to remedy that issue Monday night when it visits Oklahoma State(7-2, 1-2 Big 12) for another conference game in Stillwater, Okla.
“We’ve got to come out and play with energy and enthusiasm at the beginning and we didn’t,” Mountaineers coach Bob Huggins said after the loss to Oklahoma.
Not making shots makes most teams look lethargic, but Huggins could point fingers at his team’s defense and be correct.
While the Sooners made only 42 percent from the field, backup guard Umoja Gibson torched West Virginia for 29 points, canning 8 of 11 3-pointers.
Gibson almost single-handedly held off the Mountaineers’ furious second half run with three 3-pointers and a long 2-pointer.
Another problem was a lack of production from frontcourt mainstay Derek Culver, who managed just two points and committed seven turnovers against frequent double teams.
“We didn’t get what we normally get out of Derek. That was Derek’s worst game of the year,” Huggins said.
Culver’s off-day was ill-timed. It came in the team’s first game after 6-foot-9 sophomore center Oscar Tshiebwe, who was averaging 8.5 points and 7.8 rebounds in 10 games, left the program. Tshiebwe averaged 11.2 points and 9.3 rebounds in 31 games as a freshman.
Miles McBride is West Virginia’s leading scorer at 14.8 ppg. Despite his off-day at Oklahoma, Culver is still averaging 13.0 points and 9.5 rebounds.
Meanwhile, Oklahoma State is coming off its best win of the season, stopping No. 13 Texas Tech 82-77 in overtime Saturday in Lubbock, Texas.
The Cowboys prevailed despite a below-average game from their best player, Cade Cunningham, who made just 3 of 12 shots and scored 13 points before fouling out in overtime.
“I’m really proud of our kids for showing the fight and resiliency that it took to come in here and win,” Oklahoma State coach Mike Boynton said, per the Oklahoman.
“Not everything went our way. We dealt with some adversity during the game and our kids showed some fight.”
Cunningham made the last of his 13 points count. He was fouled on a 3-pointer with 27.3seconds left in regulation and converted all three to force overtime at 68. Then his teammates took over.
Keylan Boone’s three-point play with 2:12 left made it a four-point game, and Bryce Williams stole the ball from Mac McClung and dunked for a 78-72 lead inside two minutes. That was enough for the Cowboys.
Despite largely struggling against the Red Raiders, Cunningham is still enjoying a solid freshman year. The preseason first-team All-America pick is scoring 18.7 points per game, in addition to grabbing 5.8 boards and dishing out 3.7 assists per game.
–Field Level Media