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WVU basketball: Sooners sink Mountaineers, 72-62

NORMAN, Okla. - Buddy Hield did almost nothing right for the first 30 minutes against West Virginia on Wednesday night, but for four decisive minutes, he could do no wrong.

Hield made four 3-pointers in 3:46 to turn a one-point lead into a nine-point advantage as the Sooners pulled away late to beat the Mountaineers, 72-62. WVU has lost four out of five, each by double figures.

Hield was 0-for-7 from the floor and 0-for-6 from 3-point range before his flurry, which helped pull Oklahoma back from a 43-40 deficit and put together a 23-7 run. Hield's first 3 gave the Sooners a 47-43 lead with 9:56 remaining. He then put his side up 50-45, 53-47 and finally 59-50.

"And then," Mountaineers coach Bob Huggins said, "we didn't score."

Hield entered the game as the team's leading scorer (16.7 points per game) while shooting 39.5 percent form 3-point range. He was 3-for-8 in last month's loss to the Mountaineers, who left him open again and again in the rematch.

"I thought we knew who he was," Huggins said. "Some of our guys must not have known who he was. It looked to me like he was wide open. We didn't try to contest him very much."

Oklahoma led by 11 points late in the first half and would top that when Cameron Clark followed Hield's final 3 with one of his own to go up 62-50. The lead was as large as 13 points.

WVU had come all the way back from a 33-22 deficit in the first half to take a 41-40 lead in the second half, when Eron Harris made a 3 at the 12:55 mark, his first basket of the game. Kevin Noreen then took WVU's fourth charge of the game and followed that with a layup on a pass from Harris.

The Sooners fired back with their second quick run of the game, this time a 10-2 spurt in 2:37. Je'lon Hornbeak and D.J. Bennett both made free throws and Hield made back-to-back 3s and struck four times in five possessions -- and he missed a 3 on the open possession.

"In the beginning of the second half, I thought as a group we guarded well," forward Devin Williams said. "We held them under 40 percent, I think, at the beginning of the second half. They were just scoring from the foul lie for the most part. But then Buddy Hield hit a few 3s in a row and kind of changed the game and took energy from us. I don't think we bounced back from it."

Hield finished with 13 points. Clark had 19 points and 10 rebounds. Hornbeak added 11 points and Jordan Woodard had nine points and four assists for the Sooners (21-8, 11-6 Big 12), who improved to 14-3 at the Lloyd Noble Center before a crowd of 10,764.

Juwan Staten led all scorers with 24 points and added six rebounds. Williams had his second straight double-double with 14 points and 12 rebounds. Gary Browne added 12 points and five rebounds. Harris was just 2-for-9 and had a season-low five points. He found foul trouble in the first half and fouled out with two minutes to go.

Sophomore guard Terry Henderson traveled with the team and was in uniform, but didn't play. The team's third-leading scorer, who returned to practice Monday after sitting out the past two weeks, has missed four straight games. WVU is 1-3.

"It felt good just to have him around," Staten said. "We haven't really had a chance to see him. We'd just cross paths until he started practicing. It lifted our spirits as a team knowing he's close to playing again."

The Sooners made 11 3s and 15 of 20 free throw attempts. WVU was 4-for-13 from 3-point range and 4-for-10 from the foul line, where the Mountaineers missed their first six attempts in the first 36 minutes.

With the loss, the Mountaineers (16-14, 8-9) jeopardized their chances to finish in the top six of the conference standings and to have the first day off at next week's Big 12 tournament.

The No. 6 seed is still possible, though. If WVU beats No. 8 Kansas (22-7, 13-3) at the sold-out Coliseum and Oklahoma State (20-10, 8-9) loses at Iowa State and Baylor (20-10, 8-9) loses at Kansas State, WVU is No. 6. The Mountaineers get that seed, as well, if only they and the Bears win.

If only WVU and Oklahoma State win, Oklahoma State is No. 6 and WVU is No. 7. If all three win, Baylor is No. 6 and WVU is the No. 8 seed. WVU would also be No. 8 with a win by just Baylor. If only Oklahoma State wins, the tie between Baylor and WVU would go to the team with the best record against the highest ranked team, but the standings are too volatile for now to predict that.

The Mountaineers' chances for an at-large entry into the NCAA Tournament now rely on beating Kansas and winning multiple games in the conference tournament, but they also have to keep an eye on the .500 mark. Only three of the last 256 NIT teams have been fewer than two games above .500, though one was St. John's last year.

"Our dreams, our hopes to get to where we weren't last year, which is the NCAA Tournament, we know time is running out," Williams said. "We've just got to come together as a unit and figure out how to commit ourselves on the defensive end."

The offenses ranked third and fourth in the league in scoring started hot with four baskets each in the first 4:25, but they'd combine for just 11 in the next 12 minutes.

The Mountaineers lost Harris to foul trouble up 12-10 at the 12:29 mark and he missed the next 10 minutes.

"He got in foul trouble and got frustrated," Huggins said. "I fight with, 'Should I put him back in earlier in the first half?' But then if he picks up his third foul, I'm an idiot and we don't have any chance to win. I think when you're sitting there that long, it's hard to get it going."

The Sooners missed a bunch of open looks from 3-point range and finished the half 5 for 17. They paid attention to the 3-point line on both ends and didn't give WVU a 3-point shot in the first eight minutes or a made 3-pointer for another three minutes after that.

The Mountaineers shot a season-high 35 3-pointers in their overtime win against the Sooners and made 17. The first make Wednesday came from Chase Connor, the walk-on freshman from Shady Spring who saw regular duty for a second straight game.

Browne's 3 tied the score 20-20 and his offensive rebound tip-in cut Oklahoma's lead to 23-22. The Sooners scored the next 10 points with two layups from Hornbeak and 3s from Clark and Frank Booker for a 33-22 lead with 2:53 left before halftime. WVU had been 0-9 this season when trailing by at least 10 points in a game and hadn't made up more than a seven-point deficit to win a game.

Staten tried to change it, though, and scored the final six points of the half with some help from Noreen. After a layup to answer Booker's 3, Staten used a Noreen screen to score inside again. Browne then took WVU's third charge of the half and Remi Dibo rebounded Staten's miss. Staten then drove and lost the ball out of bounds under the basket off a defender. He inbounded to a cutting Noreen right at the rim, but Noreen passed the ball to Staten, who scored just before the buzzer to make it 33-28 at the half.  

Staten started 5-for-5 and had 16 points at halftime, but he finished 11-for-23.

"I think part of it was he got tired," Huggins said. "He's had the ball in his hands all year, and he was giving it off to Gary. I just think he was tired."

Contact sportswriter Mike Casazza at mikec@dailymailwv.com">mikec@dailymailwv.com or 304-319-1142. His blog is at blogs.charlestondailymail.com/wvu. Follow him on Twitter at @mikecasazza.


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