After taking their first loss in Big 12 play, no. 17 West Virginia men’s basketball is staying on the road with the hopes of earning their first conference win over Oklahoma State.
The Mountaineers and the Cowboys will meet for the 16th time in a series which has seen the two programs play neck-and-neck since 1958. After getting the season sweep last season, Oklahoma State currently leads the series by just one win, 8-7.
While both squads opened their conference slate with a road loss, each had a significantly different outcome. For West Virginia, they dropped a tough one at the hands of Kansas at Allen Fieldhouse. A loss is a loss, but they weren’t penalized too badly for falling by seven points to the Jayhawks.
The Cowboys didn’t have quite the same fate as the Mountaineers on Saturday. Facing Texas Tech, Oklahoma State shot just 28.8 percent from the field for 50 points in the game, while allowing the Red Raiders to put up 85 points of their own.
West Virginia will likely start with a trio of forwards (Emmitt Matthews Jr., Derek Culver and Oscar Tshiebwe) to start this matchup to square off against a probable three-guard lineup from Oklahoma State (featuring Lindy Waters, Isaac Likekele and Thomas Dziagwa). With all three Mountaineer forwards and a guard standing 6-7 or taller, the Mountaineers have a considerable size advantage over Oklahoma State — which could allow the conference leaders in rebound margin to own the boards.
Here are some of the other big matchups to keep an eye on in this game:
Re-invigorated bench play on both sides
This year’s Mountaineer squad features several reserve players who have made significant impacts so far this season. The first that comes to mind is freshman guard Miles “Deuce” McBride, who earned Big 12 Newcomer of the Week honors for the week of December 30 after scoring 21 points against No. 2 Ohio State — but fellow newcomers like Sean McNeil, Taz Sherman and Gabe Osabuohien have all chipped in to give Bob Huggins a plethora of lineups and weapons to use against his opponents.
Oklahoma State coach Mike Boynton has utilized his bench more than a season agot. 11 Cowboys have played in at least nine of their 13 games so far — which, so far, is more than last years’ campaign in which he only tapped seven players to contribute in all 18 of their Big 12 games.
This disparity shows up in the stat sheet, with 31 of West Virginia’s 73.2 points per game coming from their bench. OSU, on the other hand, only gets an 18.6-point per game contribution to their average of 70.3.
The inside battle
West Virginia is bringing their formidable frontcourt to Stillwater for the first time. The Cowboys are familiar with Derek Culver — he hung 16 points and 21 rebounds on OSU in their last game in at Gallagher-Iba Arena — but they have yet to face Oscar Tshiebwe.
Speaking of that last matchup, which was an 85-77 Oklahoma State victory, both teams battled inside with the Mountaineers winning in the rebounding column and the Cowboys out-scoring WVU in the paint.
This game will likely be much, much different. Culver has a lot of help with Tshiebwe standing alongside him on a team that averages 31.1 points in the paint — out-scoring opponents down low by an average of 6.2 points.
Oklahoma State has held teams to just 22.3 points inside, and trail the Mountaineers slightly with their own paint scoring at an average of 29.5 points per game.
How to watch
Tonight’s matchup will be broadcast nationally on ESPN2, so fans won’t need to worry about any sort of subscription (except for their cable package).
Can’t get to a TV? Tony Caridi and Jay Jacobs will have the radio call on the Mountaineer Sports Network from Learfield IMG. West Virginia Illustrated will also have live updates on our live game log right here on WVIllustrated.com, and Anjelica Trinone is in Stillwater for the post-game highlights.