West Virginia men’s basketball is back in the win column after making a comeback victory against Oklahoma State in Stillwater, 87-84.
The Mountaineers trailed by as many as 19 points in the second half, but Miles McBride led WVU to manufacture a 23-point swing in the final 11 minutes of the game to take the lead and eventually seal Bob Huggins’s 300th victory at West Virginia.
“We gotta stop spotting teams 19, 20 points,” said WVU forward Derek Culver, who had a career game with 22 points and 19 rebounds.
As strong as the closing minutes of the game were for WVU, the opening minutes were not. Oklahoma State led wire-to-wire in the first half behind a red-hot shooting start, sinking its first five attempts of the game. Isaac Likekele was the backbone, scoring 16 points in the first half and missing just one field goal attempt.
Defensively, much of WVU’s attention was on Cade Cunningham, the top recruit in the nation in 2020 and OSU’s prized newcomer. He also had a solid first half, chipping in nine points for the period.
“We weren’t getting any pressure on the ball,” Huggins said. “We had no ball pressure and so they were kind of standing around and picking us apart with open people. And their dribble penetration was absolutely killing us.”
While the Cowboy offense flourished, WVU’s stalled. The Mountaineers shot just 32.5 percent in the half, while Derek Culver was the only Mountaineer to make more than two of his shots (he was 5-for-10 for 11 points in the first).
These struggles on both ends put WVU 10 points behind OSU at halftime — a number that only grew in the beginning of the second half.
Cunningham did his best to take the game over in the second half, going off for another 16 points. This helped the Cowboys to build on their lead, eventually reaching that 19-point mark that peaked their advantage over the Mountaineers.
Soon enough, the tables turned towards West Virginia. It started with a 15-1 run led by McBride and Taz Sherman, and capped off by a steal and fastbreak dunk by Emmitt Matthews Jr.
With the deficit now within two possessions, Kedrian Johnson began to chip in to the comeback as well, adding a three-pointer and a pair of free throws. To make matters worse for Oklahoma State, foul trouble became a real problem for the Cowboy lineup — Keylan Boone was the first to foul out at 3:50, while Cunningham and Avery Anderson III were close behind with four each.
Boone’s fifth foul put McBride on the line, and he sunk both of his tries. He would then make two three-pointers on WVU’s ensuing offensive possessions to finish off a 10-0 run and swing the Mountaineers to their first lead of the game.
OSU kept it close in the last several possessions, but their hope dwindled inside the final minute when Cunningham was called for a charging foul, taking him out of the game. He finished with 25 points and nine rebounds.
Culver was a force for WVU in this game, leading his team to dominate the boards 48-39, including 22 rebounds on the offensive glass. The real collective push, however, came from the Mountaineer backcourt. McBride scored 21 for his fifth career 20-plus point game, while adding five assists and four boards. Sherman added another such game to his resume, scoring 20 points and grabbing four rebounds. Johnson finished with a career-high nine points to go along with several key defensive plays down the stretch, including the drawn charge to foul out Cunningham in crunch time.
“I thought [Johnson] was terrific,” Huggins said. “He was far and away the difference in the game.”
The victory for WVU moves it to 9-3 on the season, with a 2-2 mark in the Big 12. It also happens to be the Mountaineers’ first road win in conference play this season.
West Virginia is back on the court on Saturday when they host No. 4 Texas.