West Virginia will return to Morgantown emptyhanded.
The Mountaineers dropped their second Big 12 game of the season on Monday 67-60 to Oklahoma State despite a late surge in the second half. Fouls again impacted the Mountaineers as Erik Stevenson, WVU’s scoring leader in the contest, left the game after fouling out for the second straight game.
The Cowboys led a wire-to-wire first half as WVU’s offense struggled. The Mountaineers made just 32.8 percent of their shots as John-Michael Wright led OSU to a 9-point halftime lead.
Bryce Thompson and Avery Anderson came out of the locker room and helped OSU extend its lead to 13, its highest of the game, with a quick run, but the Mountaineers were quick to answer.
WVU was able to get to the line and claw its way back into the game. 12 of WVU’s first 20 points in the second half came from the free throw line, helping to whittle the deficit down to two possessions.
“We had better ball movement, and we actually made some shots. I mean we had shots. Seth [Wilson] had shots, didn’t make ’em. Keddy [Johnson] had shots, didn’t make ’em,” said WVU coach Bob Huggins. “We just didn’t make shots, and then for the second game in a row, we didn’t make any free throws. And then for the second game in a row, we just take the ball and say, ‘Hey, you guys want to play with it for a while?’ Throw it around, throw it out of bounds.”
Stevenson caught fire from the free throw line to finally get the Mountaineers over the hump, leading them on an 11-2 run to take the lead. After he hit the go-ahead three-pointer with just over seven minutes left, though, he was served with a technical foul, much to his bewilderment. According to the officials, Stevenson looked toward former OSU star and current Celtic Marcus Smart and made a gesture, resulting in the whistle, putting his foul count up to four.
Just over a minute later, Stevenson picked up his fifth and was forced to exit, causing a noticeable shift in the game. The Mountaineers held a three-point lead at the time of his disqualification, but the Cowboys took the momentum swing and went on a 13-5 run to seal the win.
“It’s a huge change,” Huggins said. “I can’t say it’s not. It’s a huge change. He knows better.”
Many of the same issues from WVU’s Big 12 opener on Saturday followed the Mountaineers to Gallagher-Iba Arena. WVU coughed up 15 turnovers (a slight improvement from the Kansas State loss) and missed 11 of its 28 free throws. OSU turned those takeaways into 12 points.
Thompson led the Cowboys with 15 points through a shaky shooting performance, shooting 5-for-14 from the field. He was one of four Cowboys in double figures, along with Anderson, who added 13 points before fouling out.
Tre Mitchell was the only other Mountaineer in double figures, chipping in 16 points to WVU’s scoring load. He also added seven rebounds, the second-most on the team, behind Jimmy Bell, who grabbed nine of the Mountaineers’ 37 boards.
Former WVU guard Joe Mazzulla, the current coach of the Celtics, was also at the game with Smart. The duo was in attendance as they have a game on Tuesday against the Thunder in nearby Oklahoma City.
West Virginia starts its conference slate with two losses for just the second time since joining the Big 12 in 2012-13.
WVU’s next time on the hardwood is set for Saturday when the Mountaineers host the third-ranked Kansas Jayhawks. KU opened its Big 12 slate with a narrow win over the Cowboys at home on Saturday.
Tip-off is set for 6 p.m. ET and it will be shown on Big 12 Now on ESPN+.