The West Virginia Mountaineers handle the Oklahoma State Cowboys 70-60. The Mountaineers were led by Jalen Bridges’ 22 points (tied career high) and 3 blocks, and Gabe Osabuohien’s 12 points, 8 rebounds, and 2 steals. The Cowboys were led by Isaac Likekele’s 11 points and Bryce Williams 12 points.
The Mountaineers came out with much more energy to open the game, but the offense continued to struggle for most of the first half, shooting only 36% from the field. However, strong defense, good ball movement, and great free throw shooting propelled WVU to a 11 point lead after the first half. WVU finished 7-7 from the free throw line, 5 of which were made by big men Gabe Osabuohien and Pauly Paulicap. In total, Osabuohien was the 2nd leading Mountaineer scorer and leading rebounder with 9 points and 6 boards, behind only Jalen Bridges, who finished with 10 points. Taz Sherman finished with 8 points and 3 assists.
On defense, the Mountaineers smothered the Cowboys, holding them to 32% from the field and 20% from 3. WVU also won the rebounding battle, forced 6 turnovers, and blocked 3 shots. The Mountaineers also made life extremely difficult for Oklahoma State’s best scorers, Anthony Anderson and Bryce Williams. While these two led Oklahoma State in scoring and accounted for over half of their first half points, WVU held them to a combined 5/16 from the field.
The second half started off with improved offense showings from both sides, with both WVU and Oklahoma State shooting 4/8 through the first 5 minutes. The Mountaineers would stretch their lead to 16 with 11:30 left to play, but sloppy WVU play led to a 9-0 Oklahoma State run to close the gap to single digits 4 minutes later. This run coincided with a 4 minute long scoring drought for WVU where the Mountaineers shot 0-6 from the field and turned the ball over twice. A Malik Curry free throw broke the scoring drought, which was quickly followed by 4 made free throws and a dunk from Jalen Bridges to extend the lead back to double digits. The Mountaineers would hold onto the double digit lead through the remainder of the game.
WVU’s defense continued to frustrate the Cowboys in the second half, forcing 11 turnovers and holding them to 43% from the field. Offensively, the Mountaineers showed great ball movement, finishing with a positive assist to turnover ratio and 4 players finishing in double digit scoring. The free throw shooting woes seem to be answered tonight as WVU shot 96% from the line with only 1 miss on 22 attempts, including Gabe Osabuohien finishing 4 for 4.
The Mountaineers return to action on Saturday, January 15th when they face off against the #9 Kansas Jayhawjs at 1:30PM in Lawrence, Kansas. The game can be watched on CBS.
Check out additional analysis of the WVU basketball team on the Voice of Motown podcast!