WVU basketball: Oklahoma State seeks sweep of Mountaineers
MORGANTOWN - It required two overtimes, 16 ties, 23 lead changes and a basket for a tiring team by a slumping shooter, but Oklahoma State's seven-game winning streak ended against Kansas Wednesday night.
The Cowboys won't be in first place in the Big 12 Conference when they visit West Virginia Saturday for the 2 p.m. (ESPN2 telecast) at the Coliseum, but they'll be no less capable of everything they proved since starting the winning streak by beating WVU last month.
"There have been times we haven't played particularly well, but we played hard," Oklahoma State Coach Travis Ford said. "There were some games we'd been trailing, but we kept fighting to the end and made plays. There were some games we were able to pull out getting contributions from several different players. We've just figured out how to win in different ways. That's been a big thing for us."
That not only explains the success for Oklahoma State (19-6, 9-4), but it explains why WVU (13-13, 6-7) is in sixth place in the standings. Where the Cowboys have been able to make the best of even bad situations, the Mountaineers often make those same scenarios worse.
"We don't make shots, so we don't have the luxury to give people easy layups and dunks and wide open 3s, but we do," forward Deniz Kilicli said "Because we can't make plays on the offensive end and we are so limited offensively, not everyone can do everything and we don't do those other things."
When the Mountaineers miss shots, they don't rebound. When they commit turnovers, they don't get stops. When they score, they don't defend. When they guard, they can't shoot.
In short, when they play poorly, they lose.
The Cowboys weren't at their best Wednesday, but nearly swept the season series against Kansas for the first time in 20 years. They shot a season-low 32.9 percent and their best player didn't have a basket in the first 36 minutes.
Oklahoma State was down four points at the final media timeout, but Marcus Smart finally made a shot and then Phil Forte, a gritty guard known for his 3-point shooting, stole the ball and made two free throws to tie the score.
Kansas had a short shot blocked at the end of regulation and then missed its first seven shots in the two overtimes before Nadir Tharpe, who had been 1-for-10, scored the winner in the lane with 16 seconds left to play.
The Cowboys lost for the first time since Jan. 21 and that was really the only thing different from the other games in the winning streak. Only once, in a 24-point blowout at Texas Tech, had Oklahoma State controlled a game without drama or dilemmas.
Two were decided in overtime and two were decided by five or fewer points. Even the double-digit wins were adventures. The Cowboys beat WVU by 14 points, but were in danger in the first half, and beat Texas by 13 despite awful shooting on the road.
"We like winning," Ford said. "It's a hard way to go about it, but we've figured out how to win when I can't say we've played particularly well.
"We've just not been consistent on both ends. Luckily, we've been good on at least one end."
WVU led Oklahoma State by 13 points in the first half, but was down at halftime. Forte rescued the Cowboys with six 3s and 26 points. Iowa State then made 13 3s and shot 53.8 percent. Only five Cowboys scored, but Smart won the game with a layup with 3.1 seconds to go.
Oklahoma State ended Kansas' 18-game winning streak and 33-game home winning streak by erasing a four-point deficit in the second half with a 20-9 run. Forte, who was 1-for-8 from 3-point range, scored six of his 11 points in the final 28 seconds.
The Cowboys then gave away a 14-point lead with 7:41 to go against Baylor and survived Smart's 4-for-21 shooting and the team's 18 misses in 21 3-point attempts when Michael Cobbins blocked a shot with six seconds to go. Markel Brown won the game with a layup with two-tenths of a second left.
Texas held Oklahoma State to 37 percent shooting and forced 17 turnovers, but the Cowboys won thanks to 10 steals, a plus-12 rebounding margin and 26 free throws. After crushing Texas Tech, they had issues against Oklahoma, which shot 60 percent in the second half and only turned the ball over nine times in 45 minutes. The Cowboys had just five turnovers, though, and LeBryan Nash scored a season-high 26 points.
The win was secured and the season was explained in one sequence. Down a point with a minute to play in overtime, Nash dunked, Brown had a steal before Cobbins made a layup and Smart had a steal before making two free throws.
WVU's season is very different. The record is 2-10 when trailing at halftime and 1-11 when the deficit reaches double figures. Opponents are 6-0 when shooting 50 percent or better and 12-3 when shooting better than WVU. The Mountaineers are 3-10 when outrebounded and 4-6 when they have more turnovers. They're 6-12 when they score fewer than 70 points and 1-7 when the opponent tops 70.
The explanation, according to Coach Bob Huggins: His team doesn't consistently do what's required to have a strength cover up a weakness, to play bad and still win.
"You don't do it once in a while," he said. "You do it all the time, if you really want to win. Obviously, we don't and haven't done that."
Contact sportswriter Mike Casazza at email@example.com or 304-319-1142. His blog is at blogs.dailymail.com/wvu.