One team will come out with its first victory in two weeks as the West Virginia Mountaineers host the Oklahoma Sooners at the WVU Coliseum on Wednesday. Tip-off is set for 8 p.m. ET on ESPN2.
The Mountaineers are surely looking for revenge after their last meeting with Oklahoma in February 2021. Then, both teams clashed as ranked opponents in Morgantown, and the Sooners took WVU to double overtime — just to steal a victory from the hosts.
That sealed a season sweep for Oklahoma, and ended coach Lon Kruger’s career against West Virginia with a season sweep.
OU replaced one Final Four coach with another when they brought Porter Moser on board from Loyola-Chicago. Year one of the Moser administration has gotten off to a rocky start, as the Sooners sit 12-7 overall and 2-5 in the league as they head to Morgantown on a four-game losing streak.
WVU (13-5, 2-4) will be just as hungry for a win so they can break their own skid, which, after its road loss to Texas Tech on Saturday, was extended to three games.
These are some of the biggest storylines headed into this matchup:
WVU still finding its chemistry
Even 18 games into the season, West Virginia is struggling to find its true team chemistry. This was exacerbated in its tough stretch of three straight ranked opponents, when they averaged double-digit turnovers in three losses.
“I personally think that we need to work on communicating with each other better, kind of try and develop a team chemistry, and being able to play through adversity,” said WVU forward Pauly Paulicap. “We may feel that things are not in our favor, but you know, we’ve just got to stick to it.”
The Mountaineers have a lot of individual pieces playing in their first seasons with the Mountaineers, including Paulicap. He has been one of three grad transfers to come off the bench and contribute substantial playing time for WVU, along with Malik Curry and Dimon Carrigan.
Those guys especially are trying to get comfortable in Morgantown, and they hope Wednesday will be a big step in the right direction for them.
“I’m still trying to establish like where I fit in, what my niche is,” Paulicap said. You know, I do a little bit of a lot, kind of, in terms of defense — blocking shots, taking charges, trying to grab rebounds — but I have to say that I’ve been pretty inconsistent in those areas, so I’m kind of just trying to establish where I fit in and what I do best and trying to keep doing it.”
Trial of the transfers
Taz Sherman has been WVU’s scoring stalwart throughout the campaign as he gets back into shape, but the recent emergence of Curry has been a bright spot for the Mountaineers. He has averaged 17.7 points per contest over the last three games, and notched 23 points against Kansas at Allen Fieldhouse — a season-high.
He’s succeeded despite admitting that playing Big 12 hoops is a clear step up from his previous league – Conference USA.
“Every game is definitely going to be a battle,” Curry said. “You can’t take no team lightly no matter who the team is, you’ve got to give an all-out effort every game to win a game, and…we haven’t been winning games right now, but it’s something that we’re going to figure out.”
Similarly, Oklahoma is also built on players making a jump in competition, like forward Tanner Groves, who leads the Sooners in scoring and is second in rebounding this season.
Groves joined OU in the offseason after a breakout career at Eastern Washington. Like Curry, he was all-conference in the Big Sky, but has found his spot in the Big 12.
A guy like Groves is welcome for Moser — who was left with just four players from Kruger’s 2020-21 team.
“They did a great job in the portal. Had to do a great job in the portal if you only got four guys back,” said WVU coach Bob Huggins.
Oklahoma at West Virginia game information
Tip-off between West Virginia and Oklahoma is set for 8 p.m. ET on ESPN2.