A strong game from Jalen Bridges and a near-perfect performance from the free throw line helped West Virginia men’s basketball defeat Oklahoma State in Morgantown on Tuesday, 70-60.
Bridges notched 22 points, which ties his career high in that category, while adding 12 in the second half. He picked up where Gabe Osabuohien left off in the first half, as he became an unlikely source of offense for the Mountaineers.
Osabuohien was WVU’s biggest surprise in the first half, at one moment scoring all nine of his points in a row as he helped the Mountaineers to a 17-6 run. Bridges led the offense at the half, however, scoring in double figures by the break.
“They had a really small lineup, so I knew that I could attack and have an easy shot over the little guards guarding the four spot,” Osabuohien said.
Those unusual sources of offense were coupled by strong defense, as WVU held the Cowboys to 32 percent shooting in the opening period.
Isaac Likekele tried to get Oklahoma State back into the game in the half, making four of his first six shots out of the break. Some of his buckets were matched by Sean McNeil early on, but with 10 minutes left in the game, Likekele got OSU within single digits.
That’s when Bridges took over — he scored the first eight points of a 10-point run to get WVU back to a comfortable lead, which they would hold on to until the end of the game.
Besides Osabuohien and Bridges, McNeil and Sherman each added double digits for WVU in the scoring column as well adding 12 and 13 points respectively. The Mountaineers got nearly a third of their offense, however, from the free throw line — as a team, WVU shot 21-of-22, including perfect showings from both Osabuohien and Bridges.
“We work on our free throws every day,” Osabuohien said. “Obviously it’s been a major problem for us early in the season, so going on forward, we’re aiming to shoot 80 to 90 percent if that’s going to make a difference.”
In addition to his scoring, Osabuohien led the game with eight rebounds.
The Mountaineer defense was especially pesky to Oklahoma State. WVU racked up 12 steals and forced 17 total turnovers from the Cowboys, and turned those into 10 additional points. Taz Sherman led with four takeaways, while Osabuohien added two himself — but his aggressive defensive play put him in foul trouble.
“He’s very effective at getting balls loose, but he’s gotta stop getting in foul trouble,” said WVU coach Bob Huggins. “He had four fouls again today. We need him at the end of games, and there’s going to be games where we’re going to need him an entire second half.”
Bryce Williams led Oklahoma State with 12 points to go along with four assists and a pair of rebounds. Likekele added 11 points, six boards and three assists.
West Virginia improves to a 13-2 overall record with the victory, while notching a 2-1 record in the Big 12. Baylor falls to 8-6 in the campaign and 1-2 in the league.
WVU next hits the court against Kansas on Saturday. The Mountaineers aim for their first-ever victory at Allen Fieldhouse, with tip-off at 2 p.m. ET on CBS.