Mountaineers look to solve road puzzle at Oklahoma

West Virginia’s past two road games have followed the same storyline — home team in desperate need of a win makes a meal of the Mountaineers by shooting well above its normal average.

Kansas State did it on Jan. 18, hitting 50 percent of its three-pointers to lead the way to an 84-68 win. On Jan. 29, Texas Tech shot 65 percent from outside to blitz its way to an 89-81 win over West Virginia.

Both performances stand out as anomalies against a defense that ranks second in the country against the three-point shot.

Another hungry foe awaits the 13th-ranked Mountaineers (18-4, 6-3 Big 12) on Saturday afternoon at the Lloyd Noble Center.

Oklahoma (14-8, 4-5) is currently a coin-flip team when it comes to the NCAA tournament. The Sooners have no unsightly losses, but just two wins over teams in the Top 50 and none over teams in the Top 30.

A win over West Virginia would dramatically enhance that resume.

Oklahoma’s lineup is full of long and versatile players, with 6-foot-9 center Brady Manek also serving as their best three-point shooter. Manek is 57 of 136 (41.9 percent) from distance. Manek is also one of three Sooners shooting at least 80 percent from the free-throw line.

Given Oklahoma’s ability to score from anywhere on the floor, Jermaine Haley might be the most important Mountaineer on Saturday.

Haley was assigned Iowa State point guard Tyrese Haliburton on Wednesday — the player that Bob Huggins considers the most NBA-ready in the Big 12 — and held him below his season averages with 12 points and three assists.

Whether it’s Manek, 6-7 Kristian Doolittle, 6-5 Austin Reaves or 6-5 Jamal Bienemy that Oklahoma coach Lon Kruger attempts to get going — as Huggins noted, Kruger “does a great job finding the guy with the hot hand” — the 6-7 Haley is versatile enough to defend any of them.

Kruger, who has been a head coach since 1982 and reached two Final Fours, is no doubt well aware of that fact. It will be a surprise if he doesn’t try to get Haley into early foul trouble in an attempt to rid the Mountaineers of their eraser.

No. 13 West Virginia (18-4, 6-3) at Oklahoma (14-8, 4-5)

TV: ESPNU, 2 p.m.

Last meeting: West Virginia beat Oklahoma, 72-71, in the first round of the 2019 Big 12 tournament.

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