Oklahoma St.-West Virginia Preview
Rather than controlling its own destiny, Oklahoma State now needs help to win its first Big 12 regular-season title in nine years.
The 14th-ranked Cowboys can increase their chances, though, by taking advantage of a seemingly weak upcoming schedule, beginning with their first-ever visit to West Virginia on Saturday.
A win over No. 9 Kansas on Wednesday would have ensured Oklahoma State (19-6, 9-4) could claim its first regular-season conference title since 2003-04 by going on to win its final five contests, including the finale against No. 13 Kansas State.
The Jayhawks and Wildcats, though, now are tied atop the Big 12 heading into Saturday's action, with the Cowboys one game back after a heartbreaking 68-67 double-overtime loss to Kansas.
Oklahoma State now must get help to achieve its goal but still feels it's in pretty good shape.
"We're still going to go into practice, practice like we're the No. 1 team in this Big 12 league and we're still fighting for the No. 1 spot," said Markel Brown, who scored a game-high 20 points. "It's not too late."
The Cowboys, though, had been living dangerously during their seven-game winning streak with four victories by five points or fewer, including a pair in OT. They had a chance to pull out the win Wednesday despite shooting 32.8 percent, dropping them to 40.8 percent from the field over their last five contests.
"We've been through a lot and, I won't lie, it was a down locker room," coach Travis Ford said. "They were disappointed."
Oklahoma State seems to have a few solid opportunities to boost its spirits over the next week. After facing West Virginia (13-13, 6-7), the Cowboys visit last-place TCU on Wednesday before hosting sub-.500 Texas next Saturday.
Those opponents make up three of the bottom four teams in the Big 12, and the Cowboys beat each of them by double digits in the first meeting.
Oklahoma State defeated the Mountaineers 80-66 on Jan. 26, as freshman Phil Forte scored a season-high 26 points and Brown added 24. Brown has averaged 19.5 points in six games this month.
West Virginia is coming off Monday's 71-61 loss at Kansas State, marking their 10th straight defeat versus a ranked team.
The Mountaineers, who had won three of their previous four, rank ninth in the 10-team Big 12 in field-goal shooting at 40.9 percent. They're 53-2 when hitting at least 48 percent from the field since Bob Huggins took over as coach for the 2007-08 season, but Oklahoma State has held 23 of its 25 opponents below that mark.
Huggins doesn't have a single player with a double-figure scoring average, though senior Deniz Kilicli, who had 12 points in the first meeting with the Cowboys, is averaging 18.0 and shooting 69.0 percent over his last three games.
Kilicli, shooting a Big 12-best 57.1 percent in conference play, is averaging 8.9 points for the season.
"Deniz has come a long way, and the reason why when everyone was down on Deniz I felt like he could have some success because Deniz has never quit," Huggins said.
"He's been our go-to guy."
While the Mountaineers are 8-3 at home, the Cowboys have won three straight road games after dropping their first four.