Men's Basketball, WVU Sports

Oklahoma State keeps WVU winless on the road with a 70-66 victory

MORGANTOWN — Life on the road went from difficult to just plain dumbfounding Saturday for West Virginia.

In what was a must-win situation for the Mountaineers against the only team yet to win a Big 12 game this season, Oklahoma State erased a seven-point deficit in the final five minutes to squeeze out a 70-66 victory inside a half-filled Gallagher-Iba Arena.

“It’s a tough one to lose,” said WVU head coach Josh Eilert on his postgame radio show after watching WVU fall to 0-8 in games played away from the Coliseum this season. “It’s a tough pill to swallow. We battled down the stretch, but they made the winning plays.”


Oklahoma State (9-11, 1-6 Big 12) made those plays while holding WVU to just one basket in the final 3:03.

Meanwhile, the Cowboys saw John-Michael Wright nail a 3-pointer after teammate Eric Dailey missed a lay-up, but he grabbed his own miss and kicked it back out to Wright.

After that, Bryce Thompson nailed another three, this one coming with WVU players getting beat badly down the floor in transition and Thompson was wide open.

The nail in the coffin was Javon Small’s 3-pointer with 54 seconds left that gave Oklahoma State the lead for good, 67-66.

“Credit to Oklahoma State, they made the winning plays at the end and knocked shots down,” Eilert said. “On the other end, we just couldn’t convert down the stretch.”

On the other end, a story unfolded for WVU (7-13, 2-5) that was about more than those three critical 3-pointers from the Cowboys.

It was a story that was concerning at best, comical at worst.

First, there was some good news, as WVU center Jesse Edwards returned to action after missing the last nine games following wrist surgery.

He played 16 minutes and finished with four points and four rebounds, but he obviously wasn’t at 100%.

“Jesse is going to get you some hard rebounds down there, but you have to understand the wrist is a situation with him at the foul line,” Eilert said. “If they sniff that out and start hacking him just to send him to the line, it does nobody no good. He has a hard time getting that thing up there.

“Hopefully, each and every day he gets a little more comfortable and we can ease him back in there.”

The other good news: Kerr Kriisa hit his first six 3-pointers and finished with 21 points, but he fouled out in the final seconds, taking with him to the bench WVU’s best offensive option on the day.

Nothing else went according to plan for the Mountaineers, who lost despite nailing 10 3-pointers and holding the lead for more than half the game.

Some plays simply left you wondering what had just happened.

Like Seth Wilson attempting a reverse lay-up that saw the ball go off the shot clock above the backboard and out of bounds.

RaeQuan Battle had a drive to the rim that saw him — in mid-air — bounce the ball back to the foul line where no one was standing. The play resulted in one of WVU’s 12 turnovers.

“I got after him pretty good,” Eilert said of the play. He tried to bounce it when he didn’t need to. He almost got hurt, because he wasn’t the first one to the floor.

“He made a mistake, and if the ball is rolling, he’s got to be the first to the floor or else he’s going to get hurt. I was really disappointed in that moment, and I got after him pretty good and he sat a while.”

Battle, WVU’s leading scorer, had a tough day overall. He finished with just two points on 1 of 6 shooting and had more turnovers (5) than points.

WVU’s defense also hurt itself by fouling three times while the Cowboys were shooting a 3-pointer.

One of those went in, resulting in a four-point play for Small, who nearly had a triple-double with 15 points, 12 rebounds and seven assists.

WVU also couldn’t handle Oklahoma State freshman forward Brandon Garrison, who added 20 points and was 8 of 10 from the foul line after coming into the game as a 49% shooter from the stripe.

To that end, Oklahoma State came into the game as the worst free-throw shooting team in the Big 12, yet somehow found a way to go 20 of 26 in this one.

Quinn Slazinski came off the bench to add 18 points for the Mountaineers, who missed their final five shots and was 1 for 9 over the final 3:32. WVU’s final hope was an airball 3-point attempt from Akok Akok with 12 seconds left that could have tied the game at 69.

“We got some good looks at the rim,” Eilert said about the final minutes. “Noah (Farrakhan) was doing well for us. There was a couple of times he made the wrong read, and we had some guys open around him. We just didn’t make that play.”