West Virginia’s postseason starting point just got murkier after the sixth-ranked Mountaineers fell in the final game of their regular season to No. 17 Oklahoma State, 85-80.
The Cowboys came to Morgantown with a depleted roster as star freshman Cade Cunningham and second-leading scorer Isaiah Likekele both sat out due to injuries. They didn’t seem fazed — WVU had no answer for Avery Anderson, who took off for 31 points, a career-high.
On the other end, WVU struggled to get their own points on the board. Mountaineer shooters were colder than normal, making just 20 percent of their shots from behind the three-point arc.
“I don’t know how we scored 80 when four guys that generally make their shots didn’t make any shots,” said WVU coach Bob Huggins. “We rely on making shots. We can’t guard….We don’t guard.”
Senior Day at the WVU Coliseum started off pretty well, however, for senior Taz Sherman. The guard led WVU with 14 points going into halftime, but cooled off in the second half adding just another six. Forward Gabe Osabuohien earned his second career start and added seven points — his second-highest total for the season — while grabbing a trio of rebounds.
Sherman’s scoring total helped lift WVU to a five-point lead at halftime.
WVU’s offense did not come out quite as strong in the second half. Although they shot the ball better, the Mountaineers gave up 10 turnovers in the last 20 minutes of the game that turned into 12 points for Oklahoma State.
While WVU struggled, Oklahoma State flourished. Anderson scored 20 of his points in the second half on 6-of-8 shooting, leading a red-hot Cowboy offense that shot 64.3 percent in the period. More than half of its points came from the paint.
Osabuohien was up to his usual play on the defensive end, and did his best to take some charges from the Cowboys. This game, however, he didn’t get as many as he would have hoped, while Oklahoma State began to dominate the inside game.
“Gabe took charges, and they didn’t– Well, he took charges. I’m just going to leave it at that,” Huggins said.
The game never got out of reach for West Virginia. Oklahoma State led for the last 15 minutes of the game, but couldn’t get out of a two-possession reach of the Mountaineers. WVU even had several chances in the final minutes, to swing back ahead, but missed shots and turnovers helped keep the Cowboys on top.
Although history will have to wait for Huggins, it didn’t for forward Derek Culver. His 14-point performance was enough to get the junior over the 1,000 career point mark, putting his total at 1,006. He also grabbed five rebounds, which gets his career total to 780 — the 15th-most all-time, and seven behind Lester Rowe in the record book.
The loss now puts a cloud of uncertainty over West Virginia’s postseason through the end of the weekend. The Mountaineers now have to wait for the conclusion of Texas’s game against TCU, which tips off at 7 p.m. ET on Sunday, to find out their seed in the Big 12 Tournament. With a Longhorn loss, WVU falls just one spot to the 3-seed, but with a Longhorn win, they slip all the way to the 4-seed with a likely rematch against Oklahoma State to open the tournament.
“We’re getting ready to go play in the conference tournament, where you’re not playing a game and taking a day off, you’re playing a game, and then playing a game, and then playing a game,” Huggins said. “We’re in trouble if that’s the case. We’ll be home early.”