WVU hoops set to begin road trip with matchup vs. Oklahoma

Gold and Blue Nation

Huggins & Co. will play first game without Oscar Tshiebwe Saturday

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — Big 12 Conference play will resume Saturday for WVU men’s basketball, and plenty has occurred since head coach Bob Huggins’ squad last took the floor. Here’s what you need to know about West Virginia’s matchup with Oklahoma: 

  • No. 9 West Virginia (8-2, 1-1) at Oklahoma (5-2, 1-1)
  • Tipoff is set for 4 p.m. ET at Lloyd Noble Center
  • Oklahoma leads all-time series 12-9
  • Last meeting: Oklahoma 73 – WVU 62 in Morgantown (Feb. 29, 2020)
  • TV Network: ESPN2

Lineup shuffling

The game against Oklahoma will be West Virginia’s first since the departure of star forward Oscar Tshiebwe. The program is citing personal reasons for his departure, and Huggins confirmed Friday that the preseason all-conference selection will not rejoin the team.

Huggins, though, remains confident in the players that will make the trip to Oklahoma, and thinks he still has plenty of flexibility with his rotation. 

“We can do a lot of things,” Huggins said. “I think it depends on the opposition. I think it depends on what we’re trying to get.” 

Even though one star forward is gone, another remains: Huggins expects junior Derek Culver to maintain his production as Big 12 play heats up. 

Culver’s season average is just shy of a double-double at 14.1 points and 9.9 rebounds per game. He currently ranks second in the league in rebounding and forth in field goal percentage. 

“Derek, by far, is the best big in the league,” Huggins said. “To have him [isolated] down there is not a bad thing.” 

Scouting the Sooners

The Mountaineers haven’t defeated the Sooners in Norman since 2018, when they won 75-73. A few of the key players who have hurt the Mountaineers over the past few seasons are back for another go. 

Senior guard Austin Reaves leads the Sooners in scoring, averaging 15.9 points per game. Senior forward Brady Manek is right behind him, averaging 14.6 points per game. Manek also leads the Sooners in 3-point percentage. 

Huggins said Manek plays like a prototypical NBA forward in the way he can score from anywhere on the floor. 

“He’s not a back to the basket guy, and his release is as quick probably anybody’s in the country,” Huggins said. 

Lon Kruger is in his 10th season as the head coach of the Sooners, and Huggins has a lot of respect for him. 

“The biggest thing that concerns us is how well he coaches,” Huggins said. 

Saturday will mark Oklahoma’s first game since Dec. 22, a 69-67 loss at home to Texas Tech. 

Nightmare in Norman  

The last time the Mountaineers played at Lloyd Noble Center, they produced a shooting display that Huggins will never forget — for all the wrong reasons. 

WVU went 11-31 on layups last season at OU in a double-digit loss. As Huggins put it at the time, his players were ice cold from within two feet of the basket, but he thinks his team is in a different spot now. 

“We’re fine. We’ve just got to continue to do what we do, continue to get better,” Huggins said this week in an interview for The Bob Huggins Show. “I worry more about defensively what we do, and then consistency shooting the ball from the perimeter, not from the inside.” 

Perimeter shooting was an issue in the team’s most recent win over Northeastern. In that game, WVU went 2-21 from beyond the arc. 

More notes: 

  • Oklahoma swept WVU in the 2019-20 regular season, winning 69-59 in Norman and 73-62  three weeks later in Morgantown
  • The Mountaineers and Sooners were scheduled to clash in the Big 12 quarterfinals last year before play was suspended due to the pandemic
  • WVU went 2-7 on the road in Big 12 games last season. It is 0-1 on the road in the league this season after losing to Kansas before the holiday break
  • Huggins’ next win will mark his 300th victory at WVU. Only Gale Catlett has won more games (439) as the head coach of the Mountaineers

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