Mountaineers Barely Miss Upset of No. 11 Cowboys
MORGANTOWN – West Virginia coach Bob Huggins is still trying to get a young roster to consistently play up to his expectations.
The Mountaineers couldn’t hold onto a late lead Saturday, falling to No. 11 Oklahoma State 73-72.
West Virginia had four players score in double figures, but Huggins lamented the efforts of some of his youngest players for failing to help secure a victory that would have put the Mountaineers (10-6 overall, 2-1 Big 12) alone in first place in the conference.
“We’re close,” Huggins said. “Our problem is we have a whole bunch of freshmen who don’t understand how hard you have to play for how long you have to play hard at this level. And when you stop playing hard, people take advantage of you.”
The difference was Oklahoma State’s Markel Brown hit the go-ahead 3-pointer with 12 seconds left, while West Virginia’s Juwan Staten missed a layup in the closing seconds.
“If the ball goes in, we’re all sitting here talking how far we’ve come,” Huggins said. “We got it at the rim with the guy who’s finished more goals at the rim than the rest of our team put together. We got what we wanted.”
Oklahoma State (14-2, 2-1) trailed for most of the game, but got solid efforts from its top two scorers in the final minutes.
“Proud of our team for just hanging in there,” Oklahoma State coach Travis Ford said. “There was moments where it could have got away from us, but we just kept hanging in there and then we made a few big plays. And obviously Markel hit a really big shot.”
The game featured four of the top six scorers in the Big 12. Marcus Smart and Brown again came out on top over the Mountaineers’ duo of Eron Harris and Staten after a Cowboys’ season sweep a year ago.
Despite some foul trouble, Smart had 22 points and 13 rebounds to give him two straight double-doubles. He had none before a victory against Texas on Wednesday. Brown finished with 12 points.
Staten finished with 20 points while Harris, the league’s second-best scorer, was held to 11, more than seven below his average. Harris made just 3 of 11 shots.
“He didn’t play very well,” Huggins said. “I’m telling him every day, ‘you have to work.’ “
West Virginia’s Terry Henderson scored a season-high 21 points, including a 3-pointer that put the Mountaineers ahead 72-70 with 1:14 remaining.
Freshman Nathan Adrian, who’s been mired in a shooting slump, sent the home crowd into a frenzy with a block of Le’Bryan Nash’s shot attempt with 1:04 to go and West Virginia got the ball back on the tie-up.
But Staten missed a layup with 27 seconds left, Brown got the rebound and Oklahoma State called timeout.
Once play resumed, Smart found Brown at the top left side of the circle.
“We were actually trying to feel out a shot, but when Marcus came off, everybody crashed on him, and like once before in the game he kicked it to me,” Brown said. “I was open, I got a defender off his feet and I made the shot.”
Ford recalled that Brown had failed to take a wide-open 3-pointer on another possession about 30 seconds earlier.
“Right when he did, I told him don’t pass up another shot,” Ford said. “And it just so happened he got another look.”
Staten missed another layup in traffic with time winding down.
Devin Williams had 12 points and 13 rebounds for West Virginia, which saw its three-game winning streak snapped.
Oklahoma State gave up a season high for points in the first half for the third straight game, but took advantage of a pair of West Virginia turnovers and went on an 8-2 run to open the second half for its first lead 47-43 with 16:22 left.
Smart went to the bench with his third foul with 12:04 left, and the Cowboys did just fine without him.
Oklahoma State went on a 7-0 run, with Brown stealing a pass from Brandon Watkins and dunking the ball uncontested for a 57-52 lead with 10:24 left.
Smart returned from the sideline after three minutes and kept the Cowboys’ momentum going with a pair of free throws and a 3-pointer.
West Virginia attempted just two free throws during its first-half run, but started getting free throws midway through the second half. The Mountaineers needed them because they made just one field goal over a 10-minute stretch after halftime.
Henderson broke the drought with a 3-pointer and Staten made a layup 32 seconds later to tie the score at 67-67 with 4:21 left. Each team made two field goals the rest of the game in a physical finish.