The 17th-ranked West Virginia Mountaineers got themselves back in the win column after beating Oklahoma State, 65-47, behind a new starting five and a big second half.
West Virginia debuted Miles McBride and Taz Sherman in the starting lineup, filling the regular spots of Derek Culver and Jordan McCabe. The newcomers made a splash as the only two Mountaineers to take double-digit field goal attempts, while also reaching the top of WVU’s score column as the team’s first and third-leading scorers.
Control of the game went to Oklahoma State early. The Cowboys made 5 of their first 6 shots behind a push from Yor Anei, but Emmitt Matthews scored some early buckets to make sure the game stayed close.
A West Virginia drought that lasted over four minutes allowed the Cowboys to gain a substantial lead. The Mountaineers missed 8 straight shots, including five three-pointers.
This drought, and other shooting woes from the Mountaineers, allowed Oklahoma State to build a double-digit lead in the first period of play. Cameron McGriff gave a big push for the Cowboys as the only double-digit scorer in the first half with 13 points.
The slow start had Bob Huggins scratching his head at his new lineup.
“[It] didn’t seem like it helped us much,” he said. “They [OSU] were really well-prepared. They took away everything we wanted to do, and we didn’t handle it well….They kind of over-powered our younger guys.”
In all, OSU sunk 61.9 percent of their first-half buckets.
Taz Sherman got his first career start alongside Miles McBride. The sophomore guard started off slow, going 0-for-4 — but he led the Mountaineers on a late surge to set up Jermaine Haley for a last-second three-pointer at the halftime buzzer to put the deficit at five.
With that smaller deficit, West Virginia was able to swing the game right into their favor within the first two minutes of the second half. After Derek Culver opened the second-half scoring up with an elbow jumper, McBride hit a couple shots of his own to spark a 10-0 run over the first five minutes of the half.
Along with the offensive switch, Huggins also went back to his regular lineup with two big men.
“We started small, and that probably wasn’t the right thing to do in hindsight,” he said. “But we were struggling so bad to score playing that bigger lineup, but I thought the big lineup in the second half really saved us.”
Oklahoma State remained scoreless out of the break until the 14:26 mark of the half. They made just 16.7 percent of their second half shots as the Mountaineers were able to pull away.
Foul trouble also hit the Cowboys early in the second half. The Mountaineers were in the double bonus for most of the latter period, amassing 19 free throws and making 13.
Offense was a group effort for West Virginia. In total, the eight different West Virginia players contributed to the scoring effort. The Mountaineers even lacked a double-digit scorer until the final two minutes when Sean McNeil and McBride would both hit buckets to get to 11 points.
The Mountaineers also improved their shooting in the second half, sinking 46.2 percent of their shots — an improvement of nearly 7 percent.
Taz Sherman and Jermaine Haley would be right behind with 9 points, while Oscar Tshiebwe added another 8.
Tshiebwe and Culver dominated the glass for West Virginia, combining for 25 rebounds as the Mountaineers outrebounded the Cowboys 42-29.
The Mountaineers take this win before heading to the Lone Star State for a two-game roadtrip against TCU and Texas. The Mountaineers face the Horned Frogs in Fort Worth on Saturday at 2 p.m. before heading to Austin for a Monday night clash with Texas.