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February 5, 2014

WVU topples No. 25 Oklahoma in OT




The hot streak continues for West Virginia. After withstanding a last-ditch push by the visiting No. 25 Oklahoma Sooners, the Mountaineers closed out yet another Big 12 contest, pulling away in overtime for a 91-86 victory in Morgantown.

Despite taking the long way to Morgantown - a 20-hour trek thanks to various delays through the air - Oklahoma got off to a fairly hot start against the Mountaineers. Six quick points, initiated by a circus reverse layup from Jordan Woodard, put the Sooners up 6-3 with less than two minutes down.

But like many portions of West Virginia's game this season, all it would take is a run to push the Mountaineers out front. A corner three pointer from Terry Henderson opened up the contest for the home squad, with a pair of jumpers from the red-hot Juwan Staten sending West Virginia into the first media timeout with a 7-6 advantage.

Oklahoma would retake the lead shortly following the media timeout, but a three pointer from Nathan Adrian would spurt an enthusiastic reaction from the sparse Coliseum crowd. The Mountaineers would quickly push ahead on a 7-2 run, with a monster Brandon Watkins block and nifty reverse layup from Terry Henderson capping the run. West Virginia sailed ahead 14-10 with 14:00 left in the half.

The Sooners would close to within a point after a foul beyond the arc against Frank Booker sent the guard to the charity stripe for three shots. Despite the minor hiccup, the Mountaineers managed to withstand a Sooner push, maintaining a 16-15 advantage at the second media break.

Exiting the timeout, the Sooners managed to briefly push ahead for only the second time in the half. A midrange jumper from Woodard off the screen gave the Sooners a one-point advantage for a solid 13 seconds, before a Devin Williams jumper from the top of the key pushed the Mountaineers back out front, 18-17.

A convoluted sequence at the free throw line for Oklahoma dominated the ensuing potion of play, but despite a controversial call from the officials West Virginia remained out front. The Mountaineers parlayed this emotion into a 6-0 run, extending the West Virginia lead to seven points with 7:41 left in the half.

The lead would hold around seven points for West Virginia in the ensuing two minutes before Remi Dibo nudged the Mountaineer lead to double digits. A corner three from the Frenchman gave West Virginia its largest lead of the game to that point, a 33-23 advantage, with 5:21 remaining in the half.

Several possessions later, Henderson would add onto that lead with a three pointer of his own. With momentum against their backs, the Sooners were forced to call a timeout, down by 12 points with four minutes remaining in the half.

Oklahoma would cut the deficit back into single digits shortly following the timeout, with a Buddy Hield three cutting the West Virginia lead to nine points with 2:19 remaining.

The Mountaineer's lead would hover around this amount for the subsequent two minutes before a finger roll layup from Staten closed the half strong for Coach Bob Huggins' squad. With 5.9 seconds remaining, Oklahoma was unable to connect on three final shot attempts, sending West Virginia into the locker room with a 43-32 lead.

Exiting the locker room for the second half, it appeared early that the Mountaineers would pick up where they left off offensively. On the second possession of the period, Eron Harris, who had a relatively quiet first half, rolled in a corner three to push West Virginia ahead by 14.

The Sooners would answer Harris' three with a pair of layups on consecutive possessions, but that would not slow down the sophomore guard. From deep behind the three-point arc, Harris would knock down another trifecta, keeping the Mountaineers up 49-36.

But Oklahoma would manage to mount a run. Strong interior shooting helped the Sooners cut the deficit to single digits yet again, closing to within eight points of the Mountaineers with 16:08 remaining thanks to a Hield three.

The newly-hot Harris would answer on the following possession, connecting with a midrange baseline shot to give West Virginia a 10-point lead at the first media timeout.

A number of controversial calls against the Mountaineers would help the Sooners pull back into the contest in the next four-minute period. The Sooners would capitalize with seven-straight points from Hield, putting Oklahoma down by a mere six points with 12:00 remaining in the contest.

The run would continue for Oklahoma exiting the timeout. A three-point basket from Tyler Neal, his first of the contest cut the Sooner deficit to one possession, forcing Coach Huggins to call a timeout with 10:22 remaining. The momentum had appeared to shift completely in Oklahoma's favor.

Offensively, the timeout appeared to be just what the Mountaineers needed. Returning to the hot hand of the half, Harris managed to sneak away from his defender to knock down another deep three, giving West Virginia a 64-58 advantage.

Both squads would battle against controversial officiating throughout the contest, but leading into the under 8:00 media timeout, the Mountaineers and Sooners both battled against a string of close calls. But even with the issues, West Virginia maintained a 67-62 advantage at the ensuing break.

For the three minutes exiting the timeout, both West Virginia and Oklahoma would appear to go on a dry spell from the field. Both teams would swap baskets from the free throw line, with a driving layup from Oklahoma's Woodard breaking the streak at the 5:30 mark.

Harris would crack West Virginia's own dry spell on the ensuing possession, knocking down a deep jumper to keep the Mountaineers ahead, 73-66.

But foul trouble would again rear its ugly head for West Virginia. Within 14 seconds, Dibo, who had put together a solid performance to this point, managed to collect his fourth and fifth foul. With this advantage, Oklahoma cut the deficit to three points from the free throw line, trailing 73-70 with 4:50 remaining.

West Virginia would pull back ahead by seven exiting the final media break, but a wide-open three pointer by Neal forced a frustrated Huggins to call a timeout with 3:40 remaining in the contest.

The Sooners would draw to within two points in the next minute of play as a struggling West Virginia squad failed to capitalize on potential offensive opportunities; opportunities that would bite back with 1:38 to play.

An and-1 opportunity for a driving Ryan Spangler would give the Sooners their first lead since the ten-minute mark of the first half. Coach Huggins would be forced to call a timeout with 1:34 remaining.

But would a pep talk be enough for West Virginia to regain momentum? After holding double digit leads at points throughout the second half, it appeared the Mountaineers would fall in the final minutes.

Harris, however, had other plans. The sophomore guard connected with a huge three pointer with 18 seconds remaining, tying the game up and sending the contest into overtime tied at 81.

The hot second half would transition into overtime for Harris initially, as the guard connected with arguably his deepest three of the game. The basket, answering an earlier layup from Oklahoma, put West Virginia up 84-83 with 3:04 remaining.

Harris would continue to receive the green light from beyond the arc, connecting with his sixth three of the contest shortly thereafter. The streak allowed the Mountaineers to take an 87-84 advantage with 2:00 left in overtime.

Oklahoma would cut it back to one point shortly thereafter, but a Staten jumper pushed the Mountaineers back up by three with a minute to play. The Sooners would have an opportunity to tie the ballgame, but two failed chances put the ball back in West Virginia's hands with 36 seconds left in the contest.

A Staten free throw would put the Mountaineers ahead by two possessions, 90-86, with 20.8 seconds remaining, but the Sooners would fail to capitalize. West Virginia would close out the contest from the free throw line for the win.

Final score: West Virginia 91, Oklahoma 86.

The Mountaineers were led in scoring by Eron Harris, who tacked on 28 points, 26 of which came in the second half and overtime. Juwan Staten also recorded a double-double with 20 points, 10 rebounds.

West Virginia returns to action this Saturday as they travel to Lawrence to take on the Kansas Wildcats. Tipoff is set for 4pm.


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