West Virginia-Oklahoma St. Preview
Juwan Staten’s dramatic layup delivered more than an upset victory for West Virginia earlier this week.
He’ll try to build on that clutch performance as the No. 23 Mountaineers go for their first Big 12 win over sputtering No. 22 Oklahoma State on Saturday.
Staten leads West Virginia (20-6, 8-5) with 14.5 points and 4.6 assists per game, and his importance was on full display in the waning seconds Monday. The senior guard took an inbounds pass, went the length of the court, spun away from a defender and hit a left-handed layup with 4 seconds left to secure a 62-61 home win over eighth-ranked Kansas.
Staten finished with 20 points as the Mountaineers continued to build a case for their first NCAA tournament bid in three seasons.
Coach Bob Huggins was more concerned with its impact on the remaining five regular-season games, with four coming against ranked opponents – including a March 3 rematch with the conference-leading Jayhawks.
"It stops the bleeding," Huggins told the team’s official website. "We lost three out of four and with a very challenging schedule coming up I think that was the most important thing it did. I say it gave us some of our confidence back."
West Virginia could certainly use some since it’s dropped three of four on the road while shooting 33.3 percent – 26.4 from 3-point range.
The Mountaineers have also lost all four meetings with Oklahoma State (17-9, 7-7) since joining the Big 12, falling 81-75 in Stillwater in the last matchup Jan. 25, 2014.
Staten had 19 points in that meeting after scoring 20 with eight assists, five rebounds and three steals in a 73-72 home loss two weeks earlier.
Some help from freshman guard Jevon Carter could make a difference this season. He has reached double-digit points in three of the last four games after scoring 13 while sinking 3 of 5 from long range Monday.
Carter will be facing an Oklahoma State team that is in danger of falling out of the Top 25 following back-to-back defeats. The Cowboys lost 70-65 to No. 14 Iowa State on Wednesday, getting outrebounded 44-28.
"We just got annihilated on the glass, just out-toughed on the inside," coach Travis Ford said.
Ford should be wary of a similar outcome against West Virginia, which leads the Big 12 with 17.1 offensive rebounds per game and averages 37.3 overall.
Cowboys senior forward Le’Bryan Nash is averaging 21.0 points and 6.0 rebounds while shooting 63.2 percent in the last three meetings. He had a career-high 29 points and pulled down nine boards in the last home matchup.
Nash wasn’t anywhere near that effective Wednesday, scoring 13 points while making 4 of 13 from the floor.
Phil Forte III wasn’t any better, matching Nash’s point total while shooting 3 for 11. The junior guard has totaled 39 points in two home games against West Virginia, which will host Oklahoma State in the regular-season finale March 7.