Men's basketball: Sooners look to beat West Virginia for third time this season
Astrud Reed, The Oklahoma Daily
The Oklahoma men’s basketball team will look to complete a season sweep against West Virginia in its final home game of the season at 8 tonight at Lloyd Noble Center.
The Sooners (19-9, 10-6 Big 12) have already beaten the Mountaineers (13-16, 6-10 Big 12) twice this season, but they must play each other a third time due to a scheduling quirk created by West Virginia’s transition from the Big East to the Big 12.
“We have to stick with our game plan,” freshman guard Buddy Hield said. “We stuck with our game plan last time and the first time, and hopefully we come out with a victory [this time]. Teams try to play harder when a team has beaten them twice, and they don’t want to have a third loss.”
Oklahoma is trying to go into postseason play on a strong note, and they are coming off of arguably one of their most complete games of the season, an 86-69 thrashing of Iowa State in Norman.
In that game, the Sooners were led by their upperclassmen, as five of them, junior forward Amath M’Baye, senior guard Steven Pledger, senior forward Andrew Fitzgerald, senior guard Sam Grooms and senior forward Romero Osby, all scored in double digits.
They also were bolstered by an NCAA record-tying performance from the free throw line, going 34-for-34, tying the record for most makes without a miss and earning praise from Iowa State coach Fred Hoiberg.
“The NCAA has been around a long time and to equal a record is a pretty impressive performance,” he said. “Free throws are contagious. When you’re making them, your teammates seem to step up and knock them down.”
The Sooners will have their hands full dealing with West Virginia’s balanced attack — seven players average between six and 10 points per game — led by freshman guard Eron Harris, who puts up 9.4 per contest.
While the Mountaineers may be having a down year by coach Bob Huggins’ standards, they still have hung tough against good teams, losing by one to No. 9 Kansas State and by two to Iowa State.
As usual, the Sooner offense will likely begin and end with Osby, the leader of the team, who is averaging 15.2 points and 7.1 rebounds per game.
“[Coach Lon Kruger] put the leadership role in my hands and he let me do it, but he wanted me to do it by example,” Osby said. “When I first started, I kind of talked a lot and didn’t really back it up, but now I’m starting to be able to back up what I’m talking about, and the guys respect that.”