Staten holds his own vs. Smart but can’t convert late

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — Twice during the final minute of West Virginia’s latest near-miss, point guard Juwan Staten wound his way into the lane, contorting his body around Oklahoma State defenders.

Both times, Staten’s contested shots fell off.

The first miss came with WVU seeking insurance for a two-point lead with 28 seconds left. The second miss came with 4 seconds to go after Markel Brown’s long-distance dagger put Oklahoma State ahead 73-72.

“Everything happened the we way we wanted it to happen,” Staten said of the final possession, which began in the backcourt with 11.6 seconds left. The point guard used a high ball-screen from Devin Williams and made the kind of difficult drive he has converted countless times this season. Only defenses tend to converge in these late-game situations, especially defenses like Oklahoma State’s—the best field-goal percentage defense in the Big 12.

“I got it to the rim—just didn’t make the layup,” Staten said. “Things just didn’t go the way we wanted it to.”

Coach Bob Huggins wasn’t dissatisfied with the decision Staten made to penetrate or the up-close look he found among taller defenders.

“If the ball goes in, we’re all sitting here talking about how far we’ve come,” Huggins said. “We got the ball on the rim with the guy who has finished more baskets than the rest of our team combined. We got what we wanted.”

It was Staten who carried West Virginia (10-6, 2-1) in the waning minutes of last week’s road wins at TCU and Texas Tech, and he was stellar again throughout much of Saturday’s game. With 20 points, five rebounds, eight assists, three steals and only two turnovers, Staten looked every bit the equal of his revered Oklahoma State counterpart, All-American Marcus Smart.

Well, equal in every category but the one that ultimately mattered.

“(Smart) gets a lot of hype and it’s well deserved,” Staten said.

Smart compiled 22 points, 13 boards, five assists and three turnovers. And his final pass was the one he pitched to Brown on the left wing, the one that led to the game-winning 3-pointer.

Said Staten: “He did everything he needed to do in order for his team to win.”

In the aftermath of another too-familiar loss, Huggins wasn’t much on discussing the matchup of point guards or the statistical comparisons.

“Wannie is trying to win games, and I wish everybody else would follow suit sometimes,” Huggins said. “I told you that he has worked his tail off. He studies; he comes in to play; he doesn’t take practices off. I wish everybody would do the same thing.”

Juwan Staten knifes through Oklahoma State’s Markel Brown (22) and Kamari Murphy with 4 seconds left trying to put West Virginia ahead.

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