For all the inconsistencies plaguing West Virginia this season, the Mountaineers certainly have developed a reliable pattern when it comes to losing to Oklahoma.
For the third time in their regular-season trilogy, WVU challenged the Sooners only to crumble at crunch time. Wednesday night’s storyline saw the Mountaineers pull within four at the 5:15 mark then commit three fouls and two turnovers before scoring their next basket.
That allowed Oklahoma to polish off an 83-70 Senior Night win punctuated by several senior standouts. Take the 26 points from Romero Osby, for example, or the 23 points from Steven Pledger. And don’t overlook senior reserve Andrew Fitzgerald, who scored all five of his points during the final five minutes and grabbed five of OU’s 14 offensive rebounds.
The win left the Sooners (20-9, 11-6 Big 12) comfortably on the safe side of the NCAA bubble, while West Virginia (13-17, 6-11) saddled coach Bob Huggins with his first five-game losing streak by proving yet again its incapability of beating above-average teams. The Mountaineers fell to 1-14 against the RPI top 100, a Dec. 30 win over No. 64 Eastern Kentucky standing as the anomaly.
“I’ve said it time and again, it’s my fault,” Huggins said. “At the end of day, I’m the one responsible, because I put my signature on the letters of intent. It’s my fault, and I’m going to fix it.”
And just how does Huggins plan to fix it?
“We’re going to have personnel changes, obviously.”
Though it’s small consolation to Huggins, Oklahoma is just one year removed from going 15-16 overall and 5-13 in the Big 12. So improvement can transpire rapidly, and with freshman Eron Harris emerging as a floor-stretching force (he scored 23 vs. the Sooners), Huggins has a potential star to build around next season.
“But it takes more than one good player,” he said.
“We’ve lost three games to Oklahoma because they have absolutely kicked our behinds on the offensive glass.” — Bob Huggins
Oklahoma threatened to embarrass the Mountaineers after bolting to a 25-7 lead, with Osby and Pledger combining for 18 in the opening surge. The halftime margin stood at 39-28, but WVU mounted a 13-3 run early in the second half and closed to within 44-41 on Aaric Murray’s 3-pointer.
Though the Sooners rebuilt the spread to 13, West Virginia charged back once more, closing to 68-64 on a jumper by Deniz Kilicli, who finished with 20 points.
But that was as close as WVU came. Fitzgerald rebounded his own miss and was fouled on the putback for three-point play that started a 9-2 run.
“We’ve lost three games to Oklahoma because they have absolutely kicked our behinds on the offensive glass,” Huggins said. “We said coming in that we have to rebound and we cannot allow Oklahoma to get second-chance points.”
Instead the Sooners enjoyed a 23-8 edge in second-chance points.
And West Virginia whiffed on its third chance to take down the Sooners.