MORGANTOWN, W. Va. — Come March, no one will care that West Virginia’s 55-41 victory against Oklahoma State on Monday was as uncomfortable as a fat man on a hot summer day.
When it was all said and done, the 17th-ranked Mountaineers walked out of Gallagher-Iba Arena with their first Big 12 win of the season against a school that pulled off a season sweep of WVU last season.
The 41 points allowed were the fewest given up by WVU in any Big 12 game since joining the conference in 2012.
“That was a bad basketball game,” WVU head coach Bob Huggins said on his postgame radio interview. “We turned it over 20 times and they turned it over 19 times. Thirty-nine turnovers, couldn’t make a shot, either team. I think it was two pretty good defensive teams, but both teams had pretty open looks and missed. You can’t miss open looks.”
WVU freshman Oscar Tshiebwe led the way with 12 points and eight rebounds and teammate Derek Culver added nine points and 12 rebounds.
Freshman guard Miles McBride added 10 points for WVU, which became the first road team to win a Big 12 game this season.
In an effort to bounce back from Saturday’s tough loss against No. 3 Kansas, the Mountaineers (12-2, 1-1) came out firing … and missing.
“We persevered,” Huggins said after WVU shot 19 of 49 (38.8%) from the field. “We didn’t play well. We really had a hard a hard time scoring.”
Didn’t matter if was from the 3-point line or the foul line, the Mountaineers’ shooting struggles that killed them against the Jayhawks followed them to Stillwater, Okla.
So, too, did West Virginia’s defense.
Already tops in the Big 12 in field goal defense, the Mountaineers held the Cowboys (9-5, 0-2) to just 29% shooting and Oklahoma State went the entire first half without a 3-point basket.
The Cowboys’ first 3-pointer didn’t come until the 8:17 mark of the second half, and it was a near 30-footer from Lindy Waters III. By that time, West Virginia had already held two different 16-point leads.
Oklahoma State finished 1 of 20 from behind the arc.
The Mountaineers’ defense also did a number on Oklahoma State point guard Isaac Likekele, who committed eight of the Cowboys’ 19 turnovers and he was held to five points.
“He killed us last year,” Huggins said. “He beat us last year in the Coliseum. We had a lot of focus on him.”
It didn’t help matters much for Oklahoma State that starting guard Thomas Dziagwa missed the game with the flu.
Dziagwa averages 9.0 points and is the Cowboys’ leading 3-point shooter with 32 of them on the season.
So, what did it all look like?
Both teams did a lot of running, missed a lot of shots and turned the ball over a lot, too. At times, it resembled the Mountaineers’ days in the old Big East, where it was generally the last man standing would win.
McBride capped off the first half with a 3-pointer just before the buzzer that gave the Mountaineers a 28-19 lead at the break.
“We’ve played worse, I think, but I can’t remember when,” Huggins told the ESPN crew before heading back to the locker room at the half.
The Cowboys’ took advantage of a second-half WVU scoring drought that approached five minutes to get within 43-34, but Brandon Knapper and Tshiebwe scored on free throws on the Mountaineers’ next two possession to get the lead back up to a more comfortable 13 point-cushion heading into the final seven minutes.
West Virginia’s largest lead came when McBride scored on a transition lay-up to give the Mountaineers a 55-37 advantage and their defense and ball control cruised from there.
WVU will now have a few days back home to prepare for its Big 12 home opener, a top-25 showdown against No. 22 Texas Tech.
The Red Raiders were the national runner-up last season.
Waters led the Cowboys with 12 points, but shot just 4 of 16 from the field. Cameron McGriff added 10 points and eight rebounds for Oklahoma State.