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February 23, 2013

Oklahoma State sweeps season series vs. WVU 73-57

With the 2012-2013 West Virginia basketball season entering its final days, the 13-13 Mountaineers entered Saturday afternoon's matchup with the 14th ranked Oklahoma State Cowboys with hopes of salvaging an otherwise lackluster season.

Unfortunately, it would be much of the same against the Cowboys, as inconsistent play and poor shooting in the second half destined the Mountaineers to their 14th loss of the season, dropping the contest 73-57.

The Mountaineers got off to a red hot start against the favored Cowboys, jumping out to a 7-2 lead and waking up the hot crowd at the Coliseum.

Oklahoma State won the tipoff, with guard Markel Brown setting up the Cowboy's offense on their first possession. But a steal in the front court by West Virginia's Jabarie Hinds would make that possession a moot point. The sophomore guard stripped the ball from Brown at the top of the key, going coast-to-coast for an uncontested dunk and a 2-0 Mountaineer lead.

Hinds' dunk would not be the only offensive firepower the Mountaineers displayed early in the contest. Sophomore big man Kevin Noreen, who is known for his rarely-used shooting abilities, connected on an open three pointer from the top of the key to give West Virginia the 7-2 advantage.

The recent stretch of success for Deniz Kilicli also continued in the early part of the contest, as the senior displayed footwork with a spin move around a defender before tossing up a layup. The Turk's basket gave the Mountaineers a 9-5 lead heading into the first media timeout.

Momentum would continue to stick on the Mountaineer's side at the second media timeout, despite the best efforts of the officiating crew. A series of controversial calls for both the Mountaineers and Cowboys slowed the pace of the contest, resulting in another large foul total - 12 - with only eight minutes down in the game.

Despite the foul situation, the Mountaineers continued to hold the Cowboys at bay early. Oklahoma State freshman sensation Marcus Smart found himself on the bench early with three fouls, allowing West Virginia to attack the Cowboy's defense more effectively from the guards and pressure Oklahoma State's reserves.

A pull-up jumper by Hinds, a pair of free throws by Terry Henderson and six turnovers from Oklahoma State helped give West Virginia a 14-8 lead into the timeout.

From here, the strong offensive start West Virginia enjoyed diminished. After starting the game with success from the field, the Mountaineers went a cold 0-10 in the following 10 field goal attempts.

But fortunately for West Virginia, Oklahoma State also had its share of troubles on offense. The Mountaineers and Cowboys shot a combined 9-33 from the field heading into the under 8:00 media timeout, with the Mountaineers hold a 15-12 lead.

The Cowboys finally got their act together coming out of the timeout, capping off an 8-0 run with a layup by Le'Bryan Nash to take their first lead of the game at 16-15.

From here, Oklahoma State would get in the grove one might expect from a top-15 team, finding their offensive rhythm and shutting down West Virginia's offensive sets.

Oklahoma State would continue to extend their lead, posting a 19-4 run to counter the Mountaineer's hot start. A corner three pointer by the Cowboy's Brian Williams pushed Oklahoma State's lead to eight - 27-19 - with five minutes remaining in the half.

The Mountaineers found their first offensive life in a while coming out of the final media timeout, when senior Matt Humphrey knocked down a corner three, cutting the Cowboy's lead to four.

However, the senior's trifecta would ultimately do little to spark a Mountaineer's run. A contested layup by Kevin Noreen, his first field goal of the game, kept West Virginia within four of the Cowboys.

It would take a big play at the end of the half to draw the Mountaineers within two points of the lead. After struggling as of late, junior Aaric Murray came up big in the final seconds of the half. With seconds on the clock, Juwan Staten attempted a desperation drive into the lane for the layup. The ball clanked off the front of the rim, but was scooped up in the air by Murray, who slammed it down as the buzzer sounded.

Murray's dunk would be a big momentum shift, putting West Virginia down only two at the half; 35-33.
The officials continued to call the game tight throughout much of the half. A combined 24 fouls between both squads slowed down play and helped contribute to a lackluster 20 minutes of basketball.

It was a struggle for West Virginia to capitalize on the momentum created by Murray's buzzer-beating dunk when the second half got underway, with the Mountaineers killing a chunk through an opening possession shot clock violation.

The Cowboys quickly extended their lead to five, before a breakaway dunk from Murray cut the lead back to within three.

But a 6-0 run by Oklahoma State following the dunk, sparked by two jumpers from Nash, put the Cowboys on the cusp of a double-digit lead; up 45-36. The run forced Coach Bob Huggins to call a timeout to regroup his players.

A brief talk with Coach Huggins provided a little life in the otherwise flat West Virginia offense. A layup by Murray and three from Humphrey put the Mountaineers back to within four of their ranked foe.

But that spark would soon die out, as a returning Marcus Smart led the Cowboys on a 7-0 run to give Oklahoma State a 12 point lead, their largest of the game. The stretch forced Coach Huggins to call another timeout in hopes of sorting out the issues with 12 minutes remaining.

From here, it was all Oklahoma State. Mirroring the contest in Stillwater last month, the Mountaineers got off to a hot start, stayed in contention throughout much of the game, but in end fell apart as the second half rolled along.

A 15-6 run by the Cowboys put them up 13 points on the Mountaineers - 60-47 - with just under eight minutes remaining in the half.

There would be few high marks for the Mountaineers throughout the remainder of the game, as the Cowboys would end up cruising towards victory. Freshman Eron Harris, who recorded his first zero-point effort last game since starting conference play, broke his cold spell with a three pointer, his first of the game off six attempts. The three cut the Cowboy's lead to 15 and was preceded with a Huggins timeout.

The lead would remain around 15 for the remainder of the contest, as the Cowboys would cruise to victory.

Final score: Oklahoma State 73, West Virginia 57.

The Mountaineers were led in scoring by Aaric Murray 11 and Matt Humphrey with 10 points.
West Virginia will return to action Wednesday February 22 as they take on Baylor. Tipoff is at 7pm.

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