In the days following West Virginia’s loss at No. 3 Kansas on Dec. 22, Mountaineers coach Bob Huggins stayed after Oscar Tshiebwe.
The 6-foot-9 forward’s points, rebounds and blocks had dipped early in the season from his excellent freshman campaign. On Friday, the school announced that Tshiebwe was stepping away from the program for personal reasons.
“Oscar has our full support, and we certainly wish him the best during this time,” Huggins said in a statement Friday.
Now No. 9 West Virginia (8-2, 1-1 Big 12) gets back to conference play Saturday at Oklahoma (5-2, 1-1) without their big man.
Derek Culver comes in averaging 14.1 points and 9.9 rebounds, just behind Miles McBride’s team-leading 14.8-point average for WVU. The Mountaineers have four players averaging in double figures.
For Oklahoma, the game is the second of four consecutive contests against top-15 opponents. The Sooners lost the first of those games, 69-67 at home against then-No. 15 Texas Tech on Dec. 22, and have not played since.
“They’re motivated,” Sooners coach Lon Kruger said of his players. “They’re anxious to get back out there understanding that Big 12 play is going to be tough every night out and West Virginia on Saturday is going to be no different.”
After meeting West Virginia, the Sooners visit No. 2 Baylor and No. 3 Kansas next week.
The Sooners need a better performance from senior Brady Manek, who had just two points in the loss to Texas Tech. Manek was averaging a career-high 16.7 points before going just 1 of 7 from the floor in that game.
It was just the fifth time in Manek’s four-year career he was held to two or fewer points, with three of those coming in his freshman year.
Manek generally has bounced back well from his low-scoring efforts. The last four times Manek scored five or fewer points, he averaged 21.3 points in the next game. In each of the last four of those, he scored at least 15 points.
Building depth has been crucial for the Sooners, who are getting better play recently from sophomore forwards Jalen Hill and Victor Iwuakor off the bench.
Oklahoma swept the Mountaineers last season, their first sweep of West Virginia since 2015-16. The teams were supposed to meet a third time in the Big 12 tournament before the event — and the rest of the season — was canceled the morning of the scheduled game due to the coronavirus pandemic.
The Mountaineers will be without reserve forward Isaiah Cottrell for the rest of the season after the freshman sustained a torn left Achilles tendon Tuesday against Northeastern. He was averaging 1.6 points and 1.4 rebounds per game.
–Field Level Media