No. 13 West Virginia looking for improved play at Oklahoma

WVU Sports
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Despite his team coming off a 15-point win over Iowa State at home Wednesday, West Virginia coach Bob Huggins is anything but pleased with his Mountaineers.

“We were headed in a direction I thought was going to make us a pretty good team and then we come out … and turn the ball over 19 times,” Huggins said.

Huggins kept going back to two numbers in his postgame press conference — the turnover number and the 12-of-24 performance at the free throw line — calling turnovers and missed free throws “the two telltale signs of guys not being ready to play.”

It was the third time this season the No. 13-ranked Mountaineers (18-4, 6-3 Big 12) shot 50 percent or worse from the line.

They figure to need to be better Saturday when they hit the road to take on an Oklahoma (14-8, 4-5) team looking to stay in position for the NCAA Tournament.

The Sooners are in striking range to make the tournament for the seventh time in eight years, but they’ve started the toughest stretch of their schedule. They’ll play four of their next seven games against the three ranked Big 12 teams ranked plus Texas Tech, which was ranked as high as No. 11 this season.

“It’s a good opportunity for us to go out and compete and show everybody what we’re made of,” Oklahoma guard Austin Reaves said.

The Sooners are coming off a 69-61 road loss to Texas Tech, where they led late before the Red Raiders took over in the final five minutes.

“Execute down the stretch,” Reaves said of what the Sooners need to do to finish off games instead of losing close ones. “Don’t turn the ball over. … That’s it.”

Oklahoma’s past three losses have come by eight or fewer points.

The Sooners have been strong at home, though, going 9-1 in Norman. Their only loss came to Kansas, 66-52, on Jan. 14.

West Virginia is 3-4 on the road this season, with just one of those wins in Big 12 play — at Oklahoma State in early January.

“We need to get a road win,” Mountaineers senior guard Chase Harler said.

While Huggins was frustrated overall with Wednesday’s game, he pointed out Harler as one of the bright spots.

“Chase has played really well,” Huggins said. “We wouldn’t be 18-4 without him.

“Chase is one guy you can depend on to do the right thing, be in the right place.”

Harler had a season-high 14 points in the win over the Cyclones.

Bringing the rest of the team to the level Harler has played is simple, Huggins said.

It takes work.

“Basketball’s like your girlfriend,” Huggins said. “If you don’t pay attention to it, it’s not going to like you very much. The more attention you pay to it, the more it’s going to like you.”

But though he’s been frustrated with his team’s play, the Mountaineers have given teams plenty of fits recently.

West Virginia is holding opponents to just 36.7 percent from the field, the best mark in the Big 12.

–Field Level Media

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