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March 6, 2013

WVU suffers 17th loss of season at Oklahoma





It was a rough start from the get-go for the West Virginia basketball team, as the Mountaineers left Norman, Ok. Wednesday night with an 83-70 loss at the hands of the Oklahoma Sooners.

Led in scoring by Eron Harris, who's 23 point effort kept the squad within striking distance throughout parts of the game, the Mountaineers failed to find consistency as sloppy basketball again plagued the squad en route to their 17 loss of the year.

The struggles of the 2012-2013 season were in the spotlight as the game commenced, with the Sooners continuing their recent offensive hot-streak. A pair of early threes from Oklahoma's Je'lon Hornbeak and Steven Pledger put West Virginia in an early 10-1 deficit, compelling a frustrated Bob Huggins to call timeout.

Oklahoma, however, would soon counter with a timeout of their own. A slight run by the Mountaineers, sparked from an open three by Matt Humphrey at the top of the key, cut the lead back down to four, forcing Coach Lon Kruger to burn an early timeout five minutes into the half.

A break in the action proved to be the spark Oklahoma needed, as the Sooners proceeded to push forward with a 10-2 run in the next three minutes. The streak, coupled with the mounting struggles for West Virginia, put the Sooners up 20-8 at the under 12:00 media timeout.

Frustration began to boil over for the Mountaineers shortly before the break in action. Following a string of failed defensive rebounding attempts, resulting ultimately in a foul on Aaric Murray, freshman Terry Henderson slammed the ball on the court, in an act of irritation.

The brief lapse in emotion by Henderson cost the young guard a technical foul, padding the Sooners' lead into the media break.

Relief would not be in sight for the bleeding Mountaineers, as the hot-handed Sooners continued handle their opponent. A three pointer by Pledger out of the timeout, his second in only eight minutes of play, pushed Oklahoma's lead to 15 - 23-8.

A crossover layup by Jabarie Hinds and jumper from Eron Harris proved to be the only West Virginia baskets in the next four minutes, as the Sooners took a 25-12 lead into the under 8:00 timeout.

With hopes of shifting the momentum in West Virginia's favor, the Mountaineers would have to rely on the shooting prowess of their two freshman. Henderson would avenge his earlier mental lapse on the technical, knocking down his first three of the game out of the timeout. His basket was followed shortly by one from Eron Harris to cut the deficit into single digits, 27-18.

However, the flirtation with momentum would be very brief for the Mountaineers. A three pointer off the pick-and-pop for Sam Grooms and four successful free throws from Romero Osby, placed the Sooner's lead at 32-18 enter the final media timeout of the half.

While hope was fleeting throughout the first half, a sliver of positivity could be drawn from Deniz Kilicli in the final four minutes. The senior big man attacked one of the few weak points in the Sooners' game Wednesday - post play - with 10 consecutive points to end the half.

Even with Kilicli's 12 point first half performance, however, earlier struggles gave the Sooners a comfortable cushion. Oklahoma would maintain a double-digit 39-28 lead at the half.

It could best be described as 'a tale of two halves.' After being down as much as 17 in the first half, the Mountaineers came out of the locker room red-hot on offense, cutting the deficit to mere three points.

Led by a trifecta of three pointers from Gary Browne, Harris and Murray, the Mountaineers answered many offensive issues from the first half with fluid ball movement and good shot selection.

Still, the Sooners remained rather lively on offense, maintaining a six point lead at the first media timeout thanks to a three pointer from Amath M'Baye.

Oklahoma would again find their rhythm exiting the timeout, with a pair of quick baskets from Grooms and Osby shifting momentum back into the Sooners' favor.

Murray would attempt to alleviate the run with his second three pointer of the game, but strong answers by the Sooners placed the Mountaineers down 10, leading into a Huggins timeout with 13 minutes to play.

The Sooners and Mountaineers provided some offensive fireworks leading into the under 12:00 media timeout, with WVU's Harris and OU's Pledger and M'Baye exchanging threes on consecutive possessions. The Sooners' advantage in the exchange pushed their lead to 13 at the break.

But the Mountaineers would come roaring back, pushing the limits of their offense with a 9-2 run into the under 8:00 media timeout. Highlighted by a three pointer from Harris and slam from Murray, the run put West Virginia within striking distance with the game closing in; down 64-58.

Exiting the timeout, Harris continued to prove why many have him pegged as the future of West Virginia basketball as the game winded down. The freshman connected on his fifth three pointer of the contest, tying his season high from behind the arc. Harris' basket cut the Mountaineer's deficit yet again to four.

Still, the Mountaineers failed to find any consistent play heading into the final media timeout. Back-to-back defensive breakdowns for West Virginia killed the momentum Harris' three built up, allowing Oklahoma to regain a nine point lead at the final break.

From here, the fight that kept West Virginia in the game began to fade. A few interior moves from Kilicli kept a glimmer of hope alive for the Mountaineers, but a continued assault from the Sooners' offense put the game to bed in Norman.

Final score: Oklahoma 83, West Virginia 70.

The Mountaineers close out the regular season Saturday at home against Iowa State. Tipoff is at 1:30.


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