Poor shooting dooms WVU against Oklahoma
LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. - West Virginia's basketball team played three games in warmer weather over the weekend.
But the Mountaineers' shooting remains ice cold.
On Sunday night in the consolation finals of the Old Spice Classic at HP Field House at Disney World, Oklahoma shot 47.4 percent from the field. The Sooners hit but 4-of-15 treys (26.7 percent).
Yet both numbers eclipsed those of WVU in a 77-70 Oklahoma victory, which dropped the Mountaineers to 1-3.
West Virginia hit just 36.2 percent of its shots from the field and 26.7 percent from beyond the 3-point arc.
"We had opportunities we didn't take advantage of," said West Virginia coach Bob Huggins. "We had three two-on-one breaks - and didn't score on any of them. And the play on Deniz [Kilicli] at the end totally took us out of the game. But it's a rule and they called it the right way."
The play was a bit odd. With 1:54 remaining in the game and WVU down 71-65, a foul was called on Oklahoma's Andrew Fitzgerald against Kilicli. The Mountaineer center, however, caught Steven Pledger with an elbow after the foul and went to check on Pledger. The official saw Kilicli do so and then went to the replay, where the WVU player was tagged with a technical foul. Kilicli made one of two free throws, while Pledger made both and Oklahoma gained possession. WVU's Juwan Staten fouled on a Sooner alley-oop attempt and Oklahoma's Amath M'Baye canned a pair of free throws to seal the game.
"He hit a guy under the chin," Huggins said. "The guy grabbed his arm and his arm flew up and hit [Steven Pledger], which is a technical foul, a new rule."
Oklahoma, however, gained momentum earlier, around the 6-minute mark. After a tight beginning to the second half, the Sooners took a six-point lead at 57-51 on a converted alley-oop play from Sam Grooms to Cameron Clark, their second of the game on WVU's Keaton Miles.
The Mountaineers, though, made a charge and tied the game at 62 on a pair of Gary Browne free throws at 6:03.
Browne followed that by taking an offensive charge and West Virginia seemed to be taking control. Then came the team's latest meltdown.
Staten drove to the basket, but had his shot blocked out of bounds. Huggins called a timeout and set up a play, but Jabarie Hinds misfired. Oklahoma's Buddy Hield went glass on the other end.
Back and forth it went. Kilicli's shot barely hit the rim. On the other end, Miles fouled M'Baye, who knocked down a pair of free throws. Browne's shot was blocked. On the other end, Je'lone Hornbeak drilled a trey to make the score 69-62.
The game was teetering on being over with WVU employing a full-court press and Oklahoma spreading the floor and milking the shot clock. That's when the foul and technical were called.
"We played clearly our best today against a very good West Virginia ballclub," said Oklahoma coach Lon Kruger. "We'll take a lot from this and recognize what we've got to continue to work on and, hopefully, just keep getting better."
West Virginia again started a game in good shape, but an Oklahoma press and poor choices by the Mountaineers on defense led to a healthy first-half Sooner lead.
WVU's Aaric Murray fouled from behind on an M'Baye jam, Kilicli was called for an elbow while on offense and Eron Harris fouled Pledger on a trey, which turned into a four-point play.
Huggins attempted a 1-3-1 defense, but to no avail. Also, big man Kevin Noreen again struggled. Fitzgerald scored over the 6-foot-10 sophomore, who was then blocked on the offensive end. Sooner forward Tyler Neal used the momentum to convert a 3-point shot on the other end and give Oklahoma a 34-22 lead, which would be its largest of the game.
There were other WVU defensive meltdowns, like the first Grooms-to-Clark alley-oop jam off the Mountaineers' half-court defense.
At the end of the half, though, West Virginia was able to whittle the deficit to 42-37.
WVU hit but 10-of-29 shots in the first half (34.5 percent) to Oklahoma's 17-of-34 (50).
"[West Virginia is] a terrific ballclub and Bob [Huggins] does such a good job," Kruger said. "The game today could have gone either way and I imagine the next two [in Big 12 league play] will be similar in terms of being hard-fought and very tough."
Staten led WVU with 15 points, while Kilicli and Browne had 12 apiece. M'Baye was the game's leading scorer with 19 points for Oklahoma, now 4-1.
West Virginia will next host VMI this Wednesday.
At Lake Buena Vista, Fla.
WEST VIRGINIA (1-3)
Min FG FT R A P
Deniz Kilicli 23 6-12 1-4 4 0 13
Aaric Murray 22 3-7 2-4 9 0 8
Juwan Staten 36 5-8 5-6 2 3 15
Jabarie Hinds 30 3-10 1-2 3 2 9
Terry Henderson 15 1-6 0-0 5 0 2
Dom. Rutledge 14 0-1 2-3 4 0 2
Eron Harris 3 0-2 0-0 1 0 0
Gary Browne 24 1-6 10-11 4 2 13
Matt Humphrey 3 0-2 0-0 0 0 0
Kevin Noreen 7 0-1 0-0 0 0 0
Keaton Miles 23 2-3 3-4 4 1 8
Totals 200 21-58 24-34 38 8 70
Min FG FT R A P
Amath M'Baye 32 5-6 9-13 6 0 19
Romero Osby 17 4-7 0-1 6 0 8
Steven Pledger 19 1-8 5-5 6 3 8
Je'lon Hornbeak 22 5-9 2-2 5 1 14
Isaiah Cousins 16 0-2 0-0 2 2 0
Sam Grooms 24 1-3 0-0 1 4 2
Buddy Hield 21 3-9 2-2 3 1 8
Andrew Fitzgerald 23 4-6 1-2 3 0 9
Tyler Neal 8 1-3 0-0 6 0 3
Cameron Clark 18 3-4 0-0 0 2 6
Totals 200 27-57 19-25 39 13 77
Halftime - OU 42-37. 3-point goals - WVU 4-14 (Hinds 2-4, Henderson 0-2, Harris 0-1, Browne 1-4, Humphrey 0-2, Miles 1-1). OU 4-15 (Pledger 1-7, Hornbeak 2-3, Hield 0-3, Neal 1-2).