MORGANTOWN, W.Va.–Oklahoma and West Virginia University battled it out in three down to the wire games last season but things are a little different this year.
The Sooners (7-9, 1-4 Big 12) lost stars Buddy Hield, Isaiah Cousins and Ryan Spangler after last season’s Final Four run. Oklahoma is now experiencing the growing pains of a rebuilding team.
“I think four of the five starters last year had started like 500 games or whatever it was,” head coach Bob Huggins said. “That’s a lot and those guys played heavy minutes, so the guys off the bench didn’t play as much. That makes it hard.”
The Sooners started conference play with a three-game losing skid but are coming off a win over Texas Tech on Saturday.
Oklahoma was without the services of Jordan Woodard (17.5 points and 3.7 assists per game) in the team’s losses to TCU, Baylor and Kansas State but the senior guard returned against the Red Raiders and scored 27 points while grabbing seven rebounds.
The only other starter back from last season is forward Khadeem Lattin (8.5 points and 5.9 rebounds).
The return of Woodard should take some of the scoring pressure off sophomore Rashard Odomes (10.5 points). The 6-foot-6, 212-pound guard had 24 points against Texas Tech.
Sophomore Christian James has come off the bench and averaged 11.2 points this season for the Sooners.
The Mountaineers (15-2, 4-1) are undefeated at the Coliseum this season, including last week’s win over then-No.1 Baylor.
Jevon Carter (11.2 points) played a crucial role in both of WVU’s wins last week. The junior guard’s late-game explosion helped the Mountaineers hold off Texas on Saturday.
Carter scored 11 of his 15 points in the final 10 minutes, earning him the Naismith Player of the Week honor.
Teyvon Myers (8.2 points) and Tarik Phillip (8.5 points) have played clutch roles for WVU coming off the bench. Myers scored a career-high 16 points against the Longhorns and Phillip added 15.
Senior Nathan Adrian (10.5 points, 6.5 rebounds) was sick on Saturday but scored a career-high 22 points against the Bears.
Oklahoma holds an 8-4 edge in the series against the Mountaineers, including winning both regular season games a year ago.
Tipoff is at 7 p.m. and will be televised on ESPN 2.