No. 13 WVU hopes for elusive win in Norman

NORMAN, Okla. — The last time Oklahoma and West Virginia played, Jordan Woodard took over the game.

The Sooners’ senior point guard had 20 points, five assists, four rebounds and four steals in Oklahoma’s 89-87 overtime upset of the then-No. 7 Mountaineers in Morgantown on Jan. 18.

Woodard hit a game-tying shot in the closing seconds of regulation to send the game to overtime and then hit a driving layup with 2.2 seconds left in overtime to win it for the Sooners.

“We didn’t guard him,” West Virginia coach Bob Huggins said. “We were constantly in retreat mode, which that’s not our persona.”

The teams meet for the second time on Wednesday night when the Mountaineers travel to Norman, Okla.

West Virginia has never beaten the Sooners in Norman, losing all four of the previous meetings there.

The now-No. 13 Mountaineers are typically among the most aggressive defensive teams in the country, using their high-pressure, trap defense to force teams into regularly turning the ball over.

The Mountaineers have forced a Division I-best 22.26 turnovers per game this season, more than 3.5 turnovers per game better than No. 2 Fordham. No other major-conference team is within 5.5 of the Mountaineers’ number.

The Sooners’ offense is No. 270 nationally in turnovers per game but turned the ball over just 12 times in the teams’ first meeting.

Since that first game, though, Woodard has struggled, averaging just 9.4 points per game with 21 points coming in the double-overtime loss to Iowa State a game after Oklahoma beat the Mountaineers.

He’s gone 15 of 55–27.3 percent–from the field with just 10 assists with half of those coming in the loss to the Cyclones.

Woodard has struggled before, mainly during his sophomore season, but then he had Buddy Hield, Isaiah Cousins and Ryan Spangler to help cover his offensive struggles.

This team has needed every bit of Woodard’s offense, as is evident by the seven-game losing streak earlier this season when Woodard missed four of those games and the current five-game losing streak where he’s struggled.

“We need his productivity,” Sooners coach Lon Kruger said. “We need his consistent play out there at the point guard spot. We need him to bounce back and have another good one against West Virginia.”

Since the loss to Oklahoma, the Mountaineers have gone just 3-2 as their defense has been less and less effective. That includes Saturday’s home loss to Oklahoma State where they forced 19 turnovers but couldn’t finish off the Cowboys.

“We’re not a really great offensive team, because we can’t make a damn shot, so we try to score in transition and we try to score off our defense,” Huggins said after that loss. “When we have good ball pressure, that generally happens. But the reality is our deflections have gone down and down and down. We don’t sprint out of traps. We don’t close traps like we did. We don’t run down balls from behind.”

With a game at No. 3 Kansas looming Monday, West Virginia needs to turn things around quickly.