MORGANTOWN, W.Va. (AP) — With the shot clock running down, Oklahoma State’s Le’Bryan Nash badly missed a desperation 3-pointer in front of West Virginia’s student section, only to have teammate Brian Williams there all alone under the basket to tip in the errant shot.
It seemed like No. 14 Oklahoma State had an answer to every challenge Saturday. The Cowboys overcame a terrible start and Marcus Smart’s early foul trouble with a strong second half to beat the cold-shooting Mountaineers 73-57.
“It wasn’t the prettiest of games,” Oklahoma State coach Travis Ford said.
What was beautiful from the Cowboys’ perspective was teammates helping out teammates three days after a double-overtime loss to No. 9 Kansas.
“It was good to bounce back after the Kansas game,” Williams said. “We didn’t want to lose three or four straight before we got it back rolling. We let the last game go and tried to come out here and get the victory.”
Nash and Markel Brown scored 16 points apiece, Smart scored all 14 of his points in the second half, Williams added a career-high 13 points and Michael Cobbins scored 10 for Oklahoma State (20-6, 10-4).
Williams doubled his previous career high for points and made both 3-point tries after entering the game 1 of 6 from beyond the arc.
“I thought Brian Williams played the best that he’s played all year,” Ford said. “He’s starting to get back in form. The strength of our team is who are you going to stop? It’s pretty tough to focus on one or two guys on our team. We have some versatility. I liked the way the shots were distributed among our players.”
Oklahoma State shot 52 percent (14 of 27) after halftime and forced 11 second-half turnovers to give Ford his 100th win with the Cowboys.
West Virginia (13-14, 6-8) trailed by 2 points at halftime but couldn’t keep up the momentum, falling apart with lapses on both ends of the floor. The Mountaineers succumbed to Oklahoma State’s full-court press and shot 30 percent (16 of 53) for the game.
West Virginia coach Bob Huggins used Nash’s off-balanced shot midway through the second half as an example of how things have gone wrong for his struggling team.
“Shot clock is running down, they are falling out of bounds and they heave one up,” Huggins said. “You would think we would block out. They catch it and lay it in, and we are standing there watching it. That is not playing.
“The truth is, we got beat to loose balls. We got beat to balls going out of bounds, and we have gotten beat to everything. We have a whole bunch of guys standing around and watching.”
Aaric Murray led West Virginia with 11 points and Matt Humphrey scored 10.
Smart, who was limited to 3 minutes of first-half floor time, played all 20 minutes after halftime. He made a pair of steals in a 14-second span that turned into easy baskets, part of a 13-2 run that put the Cowboys ahead 58-43 with 9:29 remaining.
At halftime, “we wanted to see if we could pressure the ball more,” Cobbins said. “And, of course, we had Marcus Smart in there to add more pressure to our defense.”
Needing baskets as Oklahoma State pulled away, West Virginia instead went nearly 7 minutes between field goals and lost for the third time in four games.
The Mountaineers didn’t have to worry much about Oklahoma State freshman Phil Forte, who torched West Virginia for a career-high 26 points in the Cowboys’ blowout win in their previous meeting in Stillwater, Okla. Forte finished with 2 points.
Oklahoma State committed six turnovers in the game’s first four minutes with Smart already on the bench with three fouls. West Virginia used those turnovers to take a 12-5 lead, but it didn’t last.
“We couldn’t get anything going in the first three or four minutes of the game,” Ford said. “We had silly fouls here and there. In some strange way, it might have motivated our guys.”
The Cowboys managed just four field goals over the first 12 minutes, then got six of them in a 2:09 span. Nash scored six points during the 13-4 run that put Oklahoma State ahead 27-19 with 5 minutes remaining in the half.
Given wide-open chances, the Mountaineers couldn’t hit many jumpers, but Murray scored West Virginia’s final six points of the half, including a dunk off a rebound at the buzzer to cut the deficit to 35-33.