STILLWATER, Okla. - It wasn't the 3-pointers from the Big 12's scariest shooter or the player with two 3s on the back of his jersey that did in West Virginia in Saturday's loss to No. 11 Oklahoma State. It was the three-point plays that mattered most in the 81-75 loss to the Cowboys.
The home team thrilled the crowd of 10,011 at Gallagher-Iba Arena by making eight baskets while being fouled and by making the free throw six times afterward to complete the and-one. In a game that entertained with 10 tied scores and nine lead changes and enraged with 56 fouls, 66 free throws and six players, including stars for both teams, fouling out, it was those eight scores amid contact that pushed the crowd over the top and fostered a feeling that the Cowboys could not be stopped.
"We know teams are going to make shots, whether it's a layup, a dunk or a 3, but the biggest thing we don't want to do is foul and make it a weak foul," said WVU point guard Juwan Staten, who miraculously played all but a few seconds of the game and didn't foul once. "If we're going to foul, we need to foul hard and make sure they don't get the ball over the rim. It's tough when you foul and they get the basket, especially when it's an easy basket because of a soft foul."
Stevie Clark would make two momentous 3-pointers for Oklahoma State, which helped as Phil Forte, the conference's leading 3-point shooter, went 1-for-9. Both times WVU took the ball out of the basket and went the other way. Markel Brown had a pair of rousing dunks, including a 360 after a steal near midcourt. Once again, though, the Mountaineers got the ball and went back the other way.
The chance to play on would quiet a crowd that had been conditioned by a back-and-forth game to expect an answer.
The and-ones were different, though, because the fans could cheer for the basket and the damage the foul did to the Mountaineers while the game stopped for a few seconds as the officials signaled in the offense and the audience applauded. A few seconds later, a free throw would give the supporters one more thing to celebrate. There could be no quick reply for WVU (11-9, 3-4 Big 12).
In the end, the Mountaineers knew they'd been out of position and late to the action when they fouled, but they also knew what it meant.
Had WVU simply fouled the shooter eight times and not let him score, the most the Cowboys could have scored was 16 points. WVU instead complicated matters by allowing eight baskets - the equivalent of the 16 free throws - and then committing fouls that let Oklahoma add six more points at the free throw line.
The final margin? Six points and WVU's sixth loss by nine points or fewer. The Mountaineers play at 6 p.m. Tuesday at Baylor (13-6, 1-5).
"We definitely need to foul harder," said Staten, who was checked into the basket support and left with no chance to score on one foul by Oklahoma State's Kamari Murphy. "If we're going to foul, there's no sense in fouling and giving them an easy bucket. If you're going to take that foul, it needs to be a good one and you need to be sure the shot doesn't get up on the basket."
The odd part for WVU was that it otherwise played a purposefully physical game, especially against Marcus Smart, the Big 12's preseason player of the year. The Mountaineers tangled with him from start to finish and admittedly tried a few things to bother him and encourage a response.