MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — West Virginia men’s basketball is back on the road on Saturday when the Mountaineers square off against Oklahoma at the Sooners’ Lloyd Noble Center. Tip-off is set for noon ET on ESPN2.
WVU heads west without a Big 12 win and a shortened bench, as Bob Huggins looks to lead his first game without longtime assistant Larry Harrison. The program parted ways with the team’s associate head coach on Thursday after 16 years with the Mountaineers.
Huggins said the decision was “difficult” and “made in the best interest of Mountaineer basketball.”
Nonetheless, the team has a quick turnaround as it looks to prevent its second five-loss start in the Big 12 since joining the league.
“I thought we really competed in the Baylor game,” Huggins said. “In this league, it’s so close, teams are so close — a missed shot here, a missed free throw, a difficult call, there’s a lot of things that can decide games because they’re all so close.”
WVU has lost three of its four Big 12 games by single digits, including a nail-biting heartbreaker to Baylor on Wednesday and an overtime loss to Kansas State to open the season. As a testament to the conference, the Mountaineers haven’t been hurt too much by those results, holding fast at No. 29 in the NET rankings — 13 spots ahead of the Sooners.
Porter Moser returned two starters and five role players, but transfer guard Grant Sherfield stands out among the rest as one of the Big 12’s top scorers. He leads an efficient offense that is deadly despite putting up lower scoring averages compared to the rest of the league.
“[Moser] is probably as good as we have in college basketball at slowing the game down to their pace, making people defend for an extended period of time,” Huggins said. “They’re difficult to play, but the biggest thing to me is their experience. They’ve got a lot of older guys.”
The Mountaineers will need some of their top scorers back in the groove after some players have had rough starts to league play. Guard Erik Stevenson has seen his numbers dip after making just 34 percent of his shots against Big 12 teams, while guard Kedrian Johnson has completed just two of his 25 attempts in conference play. (Johnson did, however, sustain a concussion against Oklahoma State and is still working his way into game shape.)
Some players have stepped up, however. Joe Toussaint nearly willed WVU to a comeback on Wednesday against Baylor with a 20-point performance off the bench and Emmitt Matthews Jr. has remained the team’s so-called “rock” in the starting lineup.
“I think this team is going to be a good team,” Huggins said. “I think it’s going to be a team is going to be an NCAA Tournament team, a team that’s going to compete in our — and this is the hardest league in the country, and compete very well.”
Tip-off between WVU and Oklahoma is set for noon ET on Saturday and it will be shown on ESPN2. Before that gets started, don’t miss a live edition of Mountaineer GameDay Basketball Edition, airing at 10 a.m. ET on affiliated Nexstar stations.