West Virginia and Oklahoma State played a contest Monday night that can charitably be described as, aesthetically, hideous.
The Mountaineers also won.
WVU and coach Bob Huggins will take that over the opposite of both every time.
West Virginia’s 55-41 win over Oklahoma State in Stillwater, Okla., revealed a few things. It revealed who the better team was (WVU). It revealed who had more talent (WVU). And it revealed that this 2019-20 Mountaineers squad has the fortitude to put in the dirty work to grind out ugly but necessary victories against inferior Big 12 road opponents.
That last part is important. With its 18-game, round-robin conference schedule, the Big 12 is ripe with opportunities for teams to lose games they should win – especially on the road.
Monday night was just such an opportunity for West Virginia (12-2, 1-1 Big 12). The Mountaineers were coming off a quick turnaround from a tough road loss at Kansas into a road game at Oklahoma State (9-5, 0-2).
They were coming off of playing in a peak-energy road atmosphere into a half-filled arena in Stillwater with an apathetic crowd. It was an early January game against a middling conference opponent. The recipe was there for a lackluster effort and a ho-hum road conference loss.
But these Mountaineers aren’t built for that. They play too hard. They defend too voraciously. They crash the glass with too much abandon. They are too deep.
If the win over Ohio State showed this team’s ceiling (and, in a less positive direction, so did the loss to Kansas), Monday night’s grind over Oklahoma State showed this team’s floor. West Virginia is limited by a below average offense that struggles to make shots. But WVU is also buoyed by relentless effort on the glass and on the defensive end of the floor. Shooting goes hot and cold. Those do not.
West Virginia lacks the experience and scoring acumen to be a realistic Final Four contender. But the Mountaineers have the depth and intensity on defense and in rebounding to make significant noise in March.
The Mountaineers aren’t going to look pretty in games like these they should win. But they’re going to win them.