West Virginia takes down Oklahoma State to make late push in Big 12
No. 23 West Virginia entered Saturday coming off its biggest win of the season—a 62-61 home win over No. 8 Kansas— and a matchup with No. 22 Oklahoma State in Stillwater was an easy target for a letdown game.
The Mountaineers had struggled on the road of late, losing three of their last four games away from Morgantown. Their lone win was a victory over a Texas Tech team at the bottom of the Big 12, a team that doesn't have the weapons the Cowboys do in players like Le'Bryan Nash and Phil Forte III.
In the win over Kansas, WVU rebounded 51 percent of its missed shots. In its 73-63 win over Oklahoma State on Saturday, the Mountaineers dominated the boards again, grabbing 18 offensive rebounds and limiting the Cowboys to 20 rebounds total. Another key? The Mountaineers made 50 percent of their threes (10-for-20), turning around a weakness in their road games of late into a strength.
West Virginia dug itself out of an early 13-4 hole behind the play of Monday's hero, Juwan Staten, while Nash was held scoreless through the first 13 minute of play. Nash did come alive to score eight points in the final 6:30 of the first half though en route to a 25-25 halftime score.
WVU separated itself in the second stanza, thanks to an unlikely source: guard Gary Browne. The senior, who entered Saturday averaging 6.8 points on the season, poured in 16 points in the final 20 minutes alone to finish with a career-high 18.
Staten followed up his 20-point effort against the Jayhawks with 22 against the Cowboys, including seven assists and a 9-for-10 clip from the foul line. His three-pointer with 5:15 remaining gave his team a 13-point lead and all but iced the game for West Virginia.
Nash and Forte, the Cowboys' scoring leaders who have combined to average 33.5 points a game, were held to 22 total points by the Mountaineers. It was the lowest total scoring output from the two since Oklahoma State was routed by South Carolina on Dec. 6 and shows just how valuable the two are to OSU's success.
After showing so much life in a run that saw them beat Texas, Kansas and Baylor twice, the Cowboys have now lost three in a row and drop to 7-8 in Big 12 play and 17-10 overall. They'll get one more lick at the Mountaineers in a March 7 game in Morgantown, which is Oklahoma State's last opportunity for a quality win before the conference tournament.
West Virginia, meanwhile, picked up another key win for its resume, but a daunting end to the regular season remains. It will host Texas on Tuesday before closing things out with games at Baylor, at Kansas and the rematch against the Cowboys. That's a lot of chances to make a statement to the NCAA tournament selection committee and pull itself into the top three teams in the impressive Big 12, but it's not going to be easy.