On Saturday, the No. 12 Oklahoma State Cowboys—without Cade Cunningham and Isaac Likekele—came into Morgantown, West Virginia, and ruined what was supposed to be a great day for the Mountaineers.
WVU (18-8, 11-6 Big 12) was looking to get the FUTURE NAISMITH BASKETBALL HALL OF FAME coach Bob Huggins his 900th win, while celebrating the careers of Taz Sherman and Gabe Osabuohien on senior day. West Virginia would’ve clinched the No. 2 seed in the Big 12 Tournament with a win. Unfortunately, the Mountaineers fell, 85-80, allowing Oklahoma State (18-7, 11-7 Big 12) to score 50 points-in-the-paint.
“Obviously, Cade Cunningham is a great player, MVP of the league. He’s the real deal. When you have a player like that, you have somebody to go to,” Huggins said. “But I think, you know, the other guys played really well. Mike (Boynton) did a great job of getting those guys ready to play contrary to what we do.”
For OSU, guard Avery Anderson stepped up big time for the Cowboys, finishing with 31 points on 11-of-14 shooting from the field. Anderson scored the majority of his points driving into the paint.
In the first matchup between the two teams, West Virginia needed to mount a 19-point comeback in order to win in Stillwater, Oklahoma, on Jan. 4. A combined effort of 47 points by Cunningham and Likekele wasn’t enough, as Deuce McBride, Taz Sherman and Kedrian Johnson helped lead a season-changing victory in favor of WVU. Remember, WVU was coming off a loss to Oklahoma and was trying to find their new selves without Oscar Tshiebwe.
Now, the Mountaineers and Cowboys will play each other for the third time in the four-five matchup of the Big 12 Tournament. This time, they will have to be able to make sure Cunningham doesn’t get into a flow, or else, they could be in trouble.
“He (Cunningham) just knows how to play the game really well. You can tell you know he’s been doing it for a while, and they (OSU) have a great system for him to really shine,” McBride said on Tuesday morning.
In the first game against the Cowboys, McBride scored 21 points on 6-of-14 shooting. The guard from Cincinnati, Ohio, scored 19-of-his-21 points in the second half, as he led the comeback.
Unlike the first matchup in January, the Mountaineers shot awful from the 3-point line, shooting 5-of-21. WVU scored 80 points but it wasn’t an efficient 80 points.
“You know guys, if we go out the way we went out the other day, we’re not gonna have a whole lot of success. Let’s be honest,” Huggins said. “I’m standing out there watching our guys shoot the ball in warm-ups and we didn’t make any (shots). We’ve talked about our defense being bad all year. We did not make any shots.”
The rubber game between the Mountaineers and Cowboys will take place on the second day of the Big 12 Tournament in Kansas City, Missouri, on Thursday. Rise and shine to get ready for an 11:30 a.m. tip-off between WVU and OSU that will be televised on ESPN or ESPN2.