After a huge upset win over Kansas, the Cowboys fell at home on Tuesday to the Baylor Bears. The Cowboys got down big in the second half, but were able to get it close down the stretch. However, the Bears held them off and came away with a road victory of their own. Oklahoma State’s dreams of dancing in March are dwindling away, and they will need to win some tough games down the stretch if they want to make the tourney.
Now, let’s get to this week’s preview.
Who: West Virginia Mountaineers (18-6, 7-4 Big 12)
Where: WVU Coliseum - Morgantown, West Virginia
When: February 10, 2018 - 11:00 a.m. CT
Radio: Cowboy Radio Network
Live Stats: okstate.statbroadcast.com
After starting the season off with a loss to Texas A&M, the West Virginia Mountaineers rattled off 15 straight wins. They cruised through their non-conference schedule with solid, resume-building wins over Missouri and Virginia, and stayed hot through the first five games of Big 12 play, which included an 85-79 victory over Oklahoma State. However, since that 15 game winning streak, the Mountaineers have had a few hiccups. They’ve gone 3 - 8 since then, with loses to Texas Tech, Kansas, TCU, Kentucky and, their worst loss of the season... Iowa State. Their three wins have come against Texas, Kansas St. and most recently, a road victory over OU in a close one.
The last time these two teams met, West Virginia was able to force the Cowboys into 21 turnovers, over six more than their season average of 13.7 per game, and were able to turn those turnovers into 25 points. Along with turnover issues, the Pokes also had a poor second half performance (surprise, surprise) in which at one point they went for over six minutes without a field goal. In addition, the Cowboys allowed West Virginia to nab 16 offensive rebounds, and Oklahoma State shot poorly (as they did on Tuesday) from the free throw line. Now the Cowboys played a great first half, and did a lot of things well, but when you have those type of issues against a solid team... you’re not going to win.
Players to Watch:
Well, for starters, Jevon Carter. Although his scoring average has dropped off slightly since the last time he faced the Cowboys, he’s still their main offensive threat with his ability to create for himself and others (16.6 ppg and 6.8 apg). He’s also a menace on the defensive end, averaging a Division 1 leading 3.3 spg, and he’s the captain of the West Virginia press defense. Oh yeah, and he grabs 5.0 boards per game just to round out the stat sheet.
Carter’s fellow backcourt mate, Daxtor Miles Jr. (12.1 ppg and 3.5 apg), is also a skilled scorer and defender. His 3-point percentage has fallen off since last season, but the 6’3 guard can hurt you in a number of ways on the offensive end.
In the front court, Esa Ahmad (10.0 ppg and 4.9 rpg), Lamont West (10.8 ppg and 4.6 rpg) and Sagaba Konate (10.7 ppg, 8.2 rpg and 3.2 bpg) are all talented players. All three of them stand about 6’8, and average double figures scoring, and on defense, Konate is one of the best rim protectors in the country. Ahmad was ineligible the last time the Mountaineers faced the Cowboys, so he will be a new face on the court for Boynton’s squad.
Three Big Things:
As I mentioned above, turnovers were a huge issue for the Cowboys the last time they faced the Mountaineers. Oklahoma State lost their patience at times and got out of control against WVU’s full court press defense. They made sloppy passes, dribbled into bad spots...
and they let the Mountaineers dictate the pace of the game. Kendall Smith and Brandon Averette will be the keys to keeping the Cowboys calm but aggressive and breaking this stingy press defense.
2. Points in the Paint
Since conference play started (including the Arkansas game), the Cowboys have averaged 26.5 points in the paint per game in their losses and 34.0 per game in their wins. They only scored 22 in their loss to Baylor on Tuesday, but when they did go down low to Mitchell Solomon, they saw positive results. If the Cowboys want to win this game, they have to attack the basket and get Mitch involved in the low post. They scored 32 inside against West Virginia earlier this season, and it was one of the main reasons they stayed in the game and almost came away with an upset victory.
Although they may be without Tavarius Shine again on Saturday, this is the type of attacking I want to see from the Cowboys.
Ball movement will be key against the press, and Oklahoma State needs to get the bigs involved down low.
If the Cowboys can get 30+ points in the paint this weekend, I think they have a shot to win this game.
3. Offensive Rebounding
We saw a lot of this in the last meeting between these two...
16 offensive rebounds that led to 19 second chance points. That just can’t happen! I realize WVU is one of the best offensive rebounding teams in the nation, but the Cowboys can’t let them dominate the glass like that. If Oklahoma State is going to play zone defense, they still have to find a man and box him out, or it will be a long day in Morgantown for this team.
I don’t see the Cowboys pulling out a road victory here. I know they just beat Kansas on the road, and they played West Virginia really well last time, but I think this Mountaineer team is just too talented and they’ve only lost twice at home all season. My prediction is 79 - 66 Mountaineers.