No. 7 WVU expects much more effort vs. rebuilding Oklahoma

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — A close call at Texas left No. 7 West Virginia feeling fortunate to win. Mountaineers coach Bob Huggins doesn’t want a repeat against another rebuilding opponent, Oklahoma.

“Huggs says if we don’t play harder than anyone in the country, then our defense isn’t what it’s supposed to be,” said Mountaineers guard Tarik Phillip.

Phillip was one of the second-half heroes Saturday when West Virginia edged the Longhorns 74-72.

Next up on Wednesday are the Sooners (7-9, 1-4), lightyears removed from last season’s Buddy Hield-sparked Final Four team, but feeling more chipper after beating Texas Tech for their first conference win.

“We have been so close,” said Oklahoma forward Kadeem Lattin. “We are a team that fights really hard. Now that we have a win under our belt it’s a confidence booster going into the rest of the season. Now we are ready to fight some more.”

Lattin and Jordan Woodard are the only starters back for the Sooners from a year ago, when two of the three games against West Virginia (15-2, 4-1) were decided on the final possession. Such inexperience explains why Lon Kruger’s team is the worst in the Big 12 in shooting percentage and turnovers.

“I think four of the five starters last year had started like 500 games or whatever it was,” Huggins said. “That’s a lot and those guys played heavy minutes, so the guys off the bench didn’t play as much. That makes it hard.”

Opponents find it hard playing in Morgantown with WVU winning 25 of its last 27 games, including a 21-point beating of then-No. 1 Baylor eight days ago. Point guard Jevon Carter won Naismith player-of-the-week honors for his clutch play against the Bears and his late-game surge in Austin, where 11 of his 15 points came in the final 9:17.

“He should get rewarded for all the time he puts in,” Huggins said.

“I don’t really pay those things too much mind,” Carter said. “I mean, it feels good but I’m just here to win.”

A two-time all-defensive Big 12 member, Carter’s offense is catching up thanks to more aggressive shot creation. He’s scoring 11.2 points and 4.7 assists per game.

West Virginia forward Esa Ahmad (12.1 points), held without a field goal at Texas, is looking to bounce back. Same with Nathan Adrian (10.5 points, 6.5 rebounds), who was sluggish against the Longhorns while coping with a stomach illness.

Woodard (17.5 points) paces Oklahoma, followed by 6-foot-6 guard Rashard Odomes (11.5 points) and Christian James (11.2).