|Field Goal %||38.0||45.2|
|Three Point %||30.0||33.3|
|Free Throw %||69.2||84.6|
The West Virginia Mountaineers and the Oklahoma Sooners put together another instant classic in the first round of the Big 12 Tournament. In a tightly contested game throughout, WVU pulled off a thriller in the final seconds that had a familiar feel to it.
The 2015 Big 12 Semifinal game had come down to the final seconds and West Virginia had a two-point lead over Oklahoma when Buddy Hield banked in a prayer from halfcourt. Hield jumped up into the stands, ESPN commentator Fran Fraschilla standing on his feet screaming into the microphone. Then upon further review, the ball didn’t leave his hand in time and the basket was waved as the Mountaineers win 69-67.
Huggins remembered that moment and was it was his first thought as the game ended.
“The first thing I did was look over at the TV deal and see if Fran Fraschilla was jumped up on the table again and started screaming ‘Hield! Hield!’.” Huggs said with a smirk on his face. “Ripping his shirt off and had that Oklahoma shirt underneath. A real non-bias announcer, that’s what we like.”
Wednesday night was another tightly contested game between to the two programs, in which the largest lead was eight, held by WVU, that came down to a review with no time left on the clock.
Jermaine Haley missed the front end of the one and one with seven seconds remaining and after an OU rebound, Christian James brought the ball up the floor down three. He pumped faked on the right-wing, then hoisted up over Lamont West and the officials signaling the three to send it to overtime. Oklahoma celebrates, but again the officials would have to take a look at it as Christian James toe was on the line and West Virginia holds on to win 72-71.
“I didn’t want to foul him.” Commented Lamont West after the game on the final play. “I had my hand in there and I was thinking in practice, ‘I can’t let him shoot it’ but we had been jumping at his pump fakes all day and he pumped faked me and I’m like ‘I knew he was going to try to do something’ so I just had to stay on the ground and he hit it. I was nervous, I thought it was going into overtime honestly.
West Virginia guard Jermaine Haley, who finished the night with 14 points and 12 rebounds, thought they had just lost the game.
“I’m going to be honest. I thought we we’re only up two points;” Said Haley with a smile, “so, I don’t know if you guys seen me at the end, I was on the ground thinking we lost. Luck was on our side – he had his foot on the line. Even if it went to overtime, I think we would have been prepared to play the next couple minutes.”
Freshmen Derek Culver was limited to 14 minutes Wednesday night. He got into early foul trouble and couldn’t stay on the court after picking up his third early in the second half. Logan Routt and Andrew Gordon gave the Mountaineers solid minutes combining for 14 points and nine rebounds. Most importantly, only one turnover.
“Andrew just started playing basketball, he’s going to make some mistakes and we realize that. Logan’s been in the program, this is his fourth year.” Stated Huggins. “I thought he did a really good job on Doolittle trying to stay in front of him. That was really good to see. Obviously, we gotta have some confidence in them, cause we’re going to play them. They gotta play. At Baylor, those guys played a lot of minutes, Derek was in foul trouble there as well.”
West Virginia crashed the boards and out-rebounded Oklahoma 46-36 and had 17 second chance points on 16 offensive rebounds.
“We out-rebounded them by 10.” Said Haley. “And, just staying aggressive in the second half. We had a couple mental errors, not getting back on defense in the first half, and I think we cleaned them up in the second half.”
Those mistakes cost the Mountaineers late in the first half when Oklahoma took a two-point lead into halftime.
They continued to leave Brady Manek open as he had 18 points early in the second half. However, WVU continued to fight and in the end, it came down to effort.
“Our goal was to come out here and play hard and we wanted to give it all we got because you know, we didn’t want to go home early.” Said Lamont West. “I feel like this is a start of a new season, even though it’s the Tournament, we came out here and new it was 0-0 and we just wanted to come out here and play as hard as we can.”
West Virginia guard Jordan McCabe followed Lamont up with this:
“We’ve been talking about it since about mid-season where we were in the standing and everything like that. We knew are only chance to make the NCAA Tournament was going to be this tournament right here. We came in knowing we have nothing to lose so that meant we should play as hard or harder than everybody else in the tournament. It was good seeing us doing that today.”
Huggins later commented on how this team is playing together. “They’re having fun. They’re playing hard. They’re excited about playing together and they’re trying to do the things that we ask them to do that we had other guys do. And, I think if you’re playing four freshmen like we are and if they continue to get better, I think it bodes well for the following years.”
The Mountaineers have continued to improve throughout the final month of the regular season and winning the last three out of five games seemed inconceivable earlier in the year.
“You gotta understand these guys really played a half of a year.” Explained Huggins. “Because they didn’t play when those other guys were around. I mean they played a little, but they didn’t play very much. And Derek didn’t play at all in the first semester of school.”
The Mountaineers face the two seeded Texas Tech Red Raiders Thursday night either on ESPN or ESPN 2 at 7:00 pm est. WVU lost both meetings.