MORGANTOWN, W.Va.–The last time No. 7 West Virginia met Oklahoma State in Stillwater, the Mountaineers thumped the Cowboys 92-75.
That was then and this is now.
After opening conference play 0-6, Oklahoma State (14-8, 3-6 Big 12) is playing its best basketball of the season. The Cowboys are riding a four game winning streak, including a 99-71 victory over Arkansas in the SEC/Big 12 Challenge last Saturday.
Oklahoma State’s recent triumph can be attributed to the team’s better defensive play.
“They’ve pack-lined it,” WVU head coach Bob Huggins said. “They don’t get so spread out now. They were playing more the way we played. We put an onus on our ability to guard the ball and I think they got back-cut some, so they’re packing it in and playing inside the 3.”
The Mountaineers faced the pack-line defense earlier in the year against Virginia.
“It’s going to be similar to that so we probably run some of the same stuff,” senior forward Nathan Adrian said. “But again it’s going to be a little bit different because they aren’t used to running it.”
The Cowboys recent adjustments have seen an improvement on the boards and from the field.
“They’re outrebounding their opponents,” Huggins said. “They got about 15 more offensive rebounds than their opponents the last five games. They’re shooting 47 percent from the 3 their last five games. They’re playing great.”
Jeffrey Carroll (17.2 points) is Oklahoma State’s leading rebounder, averaging 7.4 boards per contest.
“Jeffery Carroll has had a great year,” Huggins added. “Everybody knows how good (Juwan) Evans and (Phil) Forte are. I think they’re one of the better offensive teams in the league, if not the best.”
Evans is the Cowboys’ leading scoring, recording 18.3 points per game. The 6-foot-1, 185-pound sophomore is shooting 42.6 percent from the field and 79.3 percent from the charity stripe.
Forte (13.9 points), Leyton Hammonds (7.3 points, 5.0 rebounds) and Mitchell Solomon (5.3 points, 4.8 rebounds) round out the starting rotation for Oklahoma State.
WVU (18-4, 6-3) is playing better of late.
The Mountaineers are coming off an impressive road win in Ames over Iowa State on Tuesday.
Adrian had a career night, tallying 23 points and grabbing 11 rebounds. He ranks third in the Big 12 in offensive rebounds.
Esa Ahmad is WVU’s leading scorer, averaging 12.2 points per game. Junior guard Jevon Carter (11.8 points) is a critical constituent to the Mountaineers’ pressure defense. He is fifth in the nation in steals, averaging 3.0 a game.
Daxter Miles Jr. (10.2 points) and Elijah Macon (4.6 points) are the other two projected starters.
WVU’s bench is averaging 36.5 points per contest. Tarik Phillip (9.4) points and Teyvon Myers (7.3 points) have come up big in numerous games.
The Mountaineers free throw shooting woes has been better over the last two weeks. WVU made 17-of-20 from the free throw line against the Cyclones.
Saturday’s matchup will be the 11th meeting between the two teams. The Mountaineers have won the last five games.
Tipoff is slated for 5 p.m. and is being televised on ESPNU.