West Virginia-Oklahoma Preview
(AP) — Talk about a 1-2 punch.
After disposing of No. 1 Kansas at home for the third straight season Tuesday, 11th-ranked West Virginia now heads to Oklahoma to play Buddy Hield and the No. 2 Sooners on Saturday with a rare opportunity to knock off the two top ranked teams in the same week.
It could catapult a Mountaineers squad that was picked to finish in the middle of the pack in the Big 12 into the nation's top 10 next week.
"Honestly, I haven't paid a whole lot of attention," coach Bob Huggins said Friday. "We're trying to do what we've been doing, just stay on an even keel."
Beating the top teams in the Top 25 in back-to-back games has happened before.
The last time it occurred came in the 2008 Final Four, when Kansas defeated No. 1 North Carolina and No. 2 Memphis to win the national championship, according to STATS.
In 1989, Kansas was unranked when it pulled off the feat in the regular season, defeating No. 2 LSU and No. 1 UNLV.
And two days apart in 1990, Oklahoma beat a pair of No. 1s - Missouri on a Sunday, and Kansas on a Tuesday after the new poll came out. West Virginia lost to top-ranked Temple twice over a five-day span in 2008.
After falling to West Virginia on Tuesday, Kansas coach Bill Self, whose Jayhawks beat Oklahoma 109-106 in triple-overtime Jan. 4, has some advice for the Sooners (14-1, 3-1) and Mountaineers (15-1, 4-0).
"I tell you, the Sooners better play," Self said. "I'll tell you, West Virginia better play. Because both teams are good. It should be a fun game. There's going to be a lot of games like that in our league."
West Virginia has made significant improvements since being embarrassed by Kentucky 78-39 in the NCAA Midwest Regional semifinals in March.
After losing guards Juwan Staten and Gary Browne to graduation, Tarik Phillip and Jaysean Paige have stepped up in reserve roles.
Paige had a career-high 26 points against Kansas, whose bench was outscored 40-10. Paige has improved his scoring average from 5.6 a season ago to 13.4, which is second to Devin Williams' 14.7.
"His game has grown a lot," Huggins said. "Jaysean came in here thinking he was a 3-point shooter. Everybody was like, 'You've got to start driving the ball, because you're our best athlete.'"
The Mountaineers' only loss came to then-No. 10 Virginia 70-54 last month in the Jimmy V Classic in New York. West Virginia has won eight straight since, six by double digits.
"We can't say that we haven't worked for it," Williams said. "We just want to show that we can compete with anybody in the country."
West Virginia's offense is far from pretty to watch. The Mountaineers shot 33.3 percent against Kansas but got 15 offensive rebounds and forced 22 turnovers.
West Virginia is second in the nation in forced turnovers, part of a full-court defensive mentality dubbed "Press Virginia." It is first in offensive rebounds.
"It just shows you don't always have to make shots," Huggins said. "You can do some other things. You've got to get more possessions than the other people have when you don't shoot it very well."
Hield is coming off a career-worst 10-turnover game while scoring 26 in Wednesday's 74-72 win at Oklahoma State and doesn't expect Saturday's game against the Mountaineers to be a breeze.
"I just have to be more relaxed and I'll be fine," said Hield, second in the nation with 26.6 points per game. "I've got good teammates and good coaches around me, so I'll be more relaxed. We've got a good West Virginia team coming up, so we have to be ready for that, and I'm sure they'll come out attacking."
At least for a few days, West Virginia has first place to itself.
And for now, Huggins could care less.
"Fourteen more hard, hard games," he said.
These teams split two meetings last season, with each winning at home, as Hield scored 21 in both. Oklahoma has taken five of seven matchups since West Virginia joined the Big 12 in 2012-13.