STILLWATER–The West Virginia University basketball team was picked to finish sixth in the Big 12 before the season began, but with the season winding down the 14th-ranked Mountaineers are tied for second place with the third-ranked Sooners.
With three games remaining, WVU (21-7, 10-5) travels to Stillwater to take on Oklahoma State on Saturday night.
“This is the time of the year when seemingly everyone gets excited,” head coach Bob Huggins said via his weekly teleconference on Friday. “I think the fans get more excited. The players get more excited.”
The Jamestown, NY native could be the first WVU player to lead the team in scoring as a reserve. He averages 14.2 points per game.
Junior Devin Williams is second in scoring with 13.3 points per game. The 6-foot-9 forward can find the basket, but he is a force on the boards. He leads the Mountaineers with 8.9 rebounds per contest.
WVU ranks second in the nation with 16.3 offensive rebounds per game. And “Press Virginia is second in forced turnovers per game (18.1) and third in steals (9.9).
The Mountaineers’ roster is back at full strength with guard Daxter Miles Jr. in the lineup after missing two games with a hamstring injury.
Instead it is the Cowboys ((12-16, 3-12) who are banged up.
A couple of key injuries have really hurt the Cowboys in the backcourt. On Feb. 3 freshman Jawun Evans suffered a shoulder injury in the overtime loss to Texas Tech.
Evans had stepped in to fill the point guard position when Phil Forte went down at the beginning of the season.
In the absence of Evans, Tyree Griffin has really stepped up his game. The sophomore point guard has recorded 24 assists and just five turnovers in Oklahoma State’s last three games.
Senior Jeff Newberry scored 19 points and made a career-high five 3-pointers against the Sooners on Wednesday night. The 6-foot-2 guard is leading the Big 12 in steals, averaging 1.93 per game.
The Cowboys suffered a 71-49 loss to Oklahoma, which Oklahoma State was outscored 44-25 in the second half of its sixth defeat in seven games.
Since starting the season 0 for 12 from behind the arc, Phillip has made 30 of his last 59 3-point attempts.
The Cowboys won the first four games against WVU as Big 12 opponents, but the Mountaineers have taken the last three meetings. Oklahoma State is l 2-1 against WVU in Gallagher-Iba Arena.
The Mountaineers won 73-63 in Stillwater last season.
Tip off is at 6 p.m. and will be televised nationally on ESPN.