WVU basketball: Mountaineers fall to No. 11 Oklahoma State, 73-72
MORGANTOWN, W.Va. -- There's probably no place West Virginia would rather have the ball than in the hands of point guard Juwan Staten, and there the Mountaineers were Saturday with Staten twice dribbling toward the basket looking to put the away a game and end a two-year losing streak to ranked teams.
"He's one of the best guards in the country and he's our leader," WVU guard Terry Henderson sad. "I felt totally comfortable with him having the ball."
Staten, who missed just two of 12 shots in Monday's win against Texas Tech, missed twice in the final 30 seconds against No. 11 Oklahoma State. The first was a layup with 28 seconds to add to a two-point lead and the second was with one second left and a chance to win the game.
The Cowboys survived both shots, plus two ties and five lead changes in the second half, to hand WVU its 15th straight loss to a ranked team with a 73-72 victory before a season-high crowd of 12,078 at the Coliseum. Staten was the sole option on both possessions, first at the end of the shot clock and then during a shorter possession after Oklahoma State's Markell Brown made his first 3-pointer of the game with 11 seconds to go after missing his first three attempts of the game.
Staten used a screen at the top of the key to drive left and then had to spin right to the inside to get free from a defender.
"I definitely thought I got a good look at the rim," Staten said. "I don't know if somebody got a hand on the ball or what. I thought I put it up higher than I actually did. It does hurt a little bit, especially when you've been shooting the ball well in practice and do everything you're supposed to do to prepare for these moments."
WVU hasn't beaten a ranked team since a win at home against No. 9 Georgetown in January 2012. The only longer losing streak to ranked teams in school history was a 20-game spell from 1971-82. The Mountaineers (10-6, 2-1 Big 12) saw their two-game winning streak come to an end and are now 3-4 in games decided by five points or fewer.
"It's the same thing I told you three weeks ago -- we're close," West Virginia coach Bob Huggins said. "The problem with having a whole bunch of freshmen is you don't understand how long you've got to play hard at this level. When you stop playing hard, people take advantage of you. When you take plays off, people take advantage of you. I've said that for how long?"
WVU led by eight points in the first half and by three in the second half and trailed by no more than five points on a few occasions in the second half. The last came on a 3 by Marcus Smart with 5:23 to go, but WVU needed two possessions and a 3 from Henderson and a layup form Staten to tie the score 67-67. The Cowboys (14-2. 2-1) moved fast and freshman Nathan Adrian fouled Kamari Murphy. He made the first free throw, but missed the second and Adrian didn't box out Smart, who grabbed the rebound and scored.
"We're standing on the foul line and all you've got to do is block a guy out and we didn't even thing about blocking out a guy who just so happens to be a first-team All-American," Huggins said. "We didn't even think about blocking out. We just stood there. I don't know how you do that, but we did."
Eron Harris committed a turnover and Murphy missed a jumper before Devin Williams scored to make it 70-69 with 2:05 to go. Phil Forte missed a 3 for the Cowboys and Henderson, who forced overtime Monday with a 3, struck again with 1:17 remaining. Adrian blocked Nash's layup on the next possession and WVU took the ball with 1:04 to go before Staten missed. Brown then caught a pass in the left corner as defenders flew at him, but he pumped one out of the way and shot over the other for the game-winner.
"I don't know what happened," Huggins said. "I know we jumped. We left our feet again, even though we said 8,000 times, 'Stay down and make them score the ball through you.'"
Smart had 22 points, 13 rebounds and five assists. The last player to have at least 20 points, 10 rebounds and five assists against WVU was Ryan Gomes 10 years ago. Nash added 18 points and six rebounds and Brown had 12 points and seven rebounds.
Staten was up for the showdown with Smart and had 20 points on 7-for-12 shooting, five rebounds, eight assists and three steals.
"He's a great player," Staten said. "He gets a lot of hype and it's well-deserved. He runs his team well and he makes plays when they need him to make plays.
"Any time you consider yourself a good player and you're playing against a great player you want to play well and you want to see how you stack up and how you match up. I take my hat off to him. He played a great game and did everything he had to do to get his team to win the game."
Henderson scored 21 points and made 5 of 7 3-point attempts and added six rebounds, four assists, three blocks and two steals. Devin Williams had 12 points and 13 rebounds for his sixth double-double. Harris missed 8 of 11 shots and 5 of 6 3-point attempts had finished with 11 points and three turnovers. He entered the game second in the league in scoring in 18.5 points per game.
"The more that I do that, the more teams will key on me, so I have to make sure I don't do what I did because that makes it harder on me," Harris said. "I've got to stay within myself. I feel like in that game I did the worst thing I can do and that's get down on myself. I lost a little bit of confidence in that game. I tried to force a couple plays and caused some turnovers."
Contact sportswriter Mike Casazza at email@example.com or 304-319-1142. His blog is at blogs.charlestondailymai.com/wvu.