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March 5, 2014
WVU falls to No. 23 Oklahoma 72-62
In one of the most inconsistent offensive struggles of the season, the West Virginia Mountaineers failed to gain any traction Wednesday night in Norman, falling to the No. 23 Oklahoma Sooners 72-62.
Early on, it appeared that the Sooners would make Wednesday a long evening for the visiting Mountaineers. A lack of defense on West Virginia's behalf to open up the contest allowed Oklahoma to take full-advantage on the scoreboard, breaking through both from behind the arc and in the paint. This allowed the Sooners to pull ahead to an early 8-4 advantage, with back-to-back three pointers pressing Oklahoma ahead.
But like much of the season, Juwan Staten picked up the slack when it mattered. The junior guard managed to cut through the Oklahoma zone defense, getting one basket off the glass and two mid-range jumpers to put the Mountaineers behind 10-8 at the first media timeout.
Staten managed to lose very little fire when both teams returned from the bench, helping push the Mountaineers into the lead with four-consecutive points coming out of the timeout. With 10 of West Virginia's first 12 points to himself, Staten parlayed a hot hand into a 5-5 start from the field, helping give the Mountaineers a 12-10 lead with 12:12 remaining in the half.
West Virginia would not managed to sustain this lead for long, with Je'lon Hornbeak connecting with a corner three, thanks to a Mountaineer defensive breakdown. The Sooners entered the under 12-minute media break with a 14-12 advantage.
The game would quickly reach another stalemate at 14 shortly following the break, but the Mountaineers managed to break the tie with the new Mountain State secret weapon. Playing rather significant minutes for the second-consecutive game, freshman walk-on Chase Connor entered the contest and quickly made his presence known with a straightaway three, giving West Virginia the 17-14 lead.
Ironically, Oklahoma would gain a bit of a boost following Connor's three, going on a brisk 6-0 run to take the lead at 20-17. But right before the under 8-minute media timeout, a circus downtown three from Gary Browne tied the contest yet again, this time going into the quick commercial break even at 20.
Things began to come unglued for West Virginia in the ensuing four-minute span. Sloppy defense and inconsistent shots allowed the Sooners to pull ahead by six points, with a put-back tip from Browne being the only Mountaineer points in the span. Still, West Virginia managed to stick around, down only 28-22 with 3:34 remaining in the half.
Oklahoma would continue to extend its run for the remainder of half, pushing its run into a 13-2 spurt and 33-22 advantage.
Staten would break the run near the end of the half, scoring eight points in the final 2:16 to help lead the Mountaineers into the locker room down 33-28 at the half.
Exiting the locker room, West Virginia managed to close within two points in the first four minutes of the contests, thanks in part to the efforts of Devin Williams. The freshman big man quickly connected with an off-balanced jumper to open the half, and following it up with a slick backdoor pass to Staten for the basket several possessions later.
The Mountaineers cut the deficit to two points following the Staten layup, but the Sooners would quickly build back the advantage exiting the first media timeout. A long jumper from the Sooners' Clark pushed Oklahoma up 40-34 with 15:00 left in the contest.
Once the Sooners reached this point, however, a flip switched yet again for the Mountaineers. West Virginia would put together an 8-0 run, aided by a surprise layup from Kevin Noreen and much-needed three from Eron Harris, the guard's first field goal of the contest. Heading into the second media timeout, the Mountaineers regained the lead, carrying a 43-40 advantage into the break.
The lead for West Virginia would not last long, however, with Oklahoma kicking its offense into gear exiting the timeout with a 10-2 run. Back-to-back threes from the Sooners' Buddy Hield helped spark the run, putting the Sooners up 50-45 before Coach Bob Huggins called a timeout to halt the bleeding.
Hield's streak of success from beyond the arc would continue exiting West Virginia's timeout attempt. After clanking a shot off the front iron exiting the timeout, Hield returned to the court on the following possession, swishing the ball from the same location. The basket let both teams into the under 8-minute media timeout with Oklahoma holding a 53-47 lead.
Browne continued to put the West Virginia perimeter offense on his back, scoring a second-chance three exiting the timeout, but the Sooners would quickly answer the call. An and-1 foul on Clark by Noreen, his fifth foul of the contest, pushed Oklahoma back up by six.
But even with the ample success inside the arc for the Sooners, Hield remained the answer for the home squad. The guard connected with his third three of the half, killing a large chunk of momentum West Virginia had with 6 :00 remaining. The basket gave Oklahoma a 59-50 advantage.
The Sooners would parlay this momentum into a significant run, heading into the final media timeout. With 3:01 remaining, Oklahoma held a 65-52 advantage.
For the final few minutes, the Mountaineers would attempt one last run behind the play of Browne and Staten, but in the end the Sooners would be too much.
Final: Oklahoma 72, West Virginia 62.
The Mountaineers were led in scoring by Juwan Staten and Gary Browne, who contributed 24 and 12 points each, respectively. Devin Williams also recorded his seventh double-double of the season Wednesday, recording 14 points and 13 rebounds in the loss.
West Virginia will close out its regular season Saturday at home against the Kansas Jayhawks. Tipoff is set for noon.
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