by Kyle Kessell
The West Virginia men’s basketball season has been filled with more twists and turns than an M. Night Shyamalan movie. One week they are forcing the number one team in the nation, Baylor, to commit an astonishing 29 turnovers, and then they fall in overtime to Oklahoma, the last team in the conference. To be fair OU did get back their biggest offensive weapon, Jordan Woodard, who played a huge role in leading his team to their biggest road win of the year. WVU let a big lead slip through their grasp in the second half with sloppy plays and allowing OU to make shots. The famed “Press Virginia” did more turning the ball over than forcing turnovers from their opponent. Not often does a team going up against WVU protect the ball against them, but in this case OU only committed 12 turnovers to West Virginia’s 13.
Disrupting Oklahoma’s offense wasn’t the only thing not going the Mountaineer’s way, as the deep ball was also not in West Virginia’s favor as they went 7-25 from beyond the arc. It’s very unusual for a Bob Huggins team to do more spraying and praying rather than taking high percentage shots inside the paint. Without banging down low, OU’s big men were able to stay fresh down the stretch which led to opening up lanes for Woodard to drive in and finish plays.
It was not all bad for WVU as Jevon Carter posted his first double-double in his collegiate career leading his team with 23 points, 11 rebounds and finished with 6 assists which were all game highs.
However, it only got worse for the Mountaineers as they rolled into Kansas State territory and lost another close one: 79-75. Once again, sloppy play cost WVU greatly as they turned the ball over 23 times. The Wildcat’s balanced attack was too much for WVU’s defense as all five starters scored in the double digits with Stokes leading the way as he finished with 15. Tarrik Phillips had a game high of 20 points coming off the bench, and the Mountaineers shot extremely well from the charity strike, 21-24, but still were unable to find a way to win down the stretch.
After back-to-back close losses, it will be interesting to see how they fair against number one Kansas who comes into Morgantown on Jan. 24. We know WVU can blow teams out when they create havoc in the passing lanes, but unfortunately, they are unable to find a way to win close ones.
If you plan on staying in the hunt for a Big 12 title, then WVU needs to find a way to come out victorious in close games. Kansas will be a big task to face, but the Mountaineers have a perplexity for knocking off number one teams. They have already done it once this year and have done it the year prior, but knocking off the Jayhawks will take a better effort than that of the last two outings.