No. 12 Oklahoma, No. 14 West Virginia set for Big 12 battle

Local Sports

West Virginia is a much different team now than it was the last time it faced Oklahoma.

When the Mountaineers visited the Sooners on Jan. 2, West Virginia’s roster was in flux, with Oscar Tshiebwe, one of the highest-rated prospects ever signed by the Mountaineers, stepping away from the team in the days before that game.

Tshiebwe’s absence, and his ultimate decision to transfer to Kentucky, left Bob Huggins to retool the direction of his team.

After a rough start without Tshiebwe, which included a 75-71 loss to then-unranked Oklahoma, the Mountaineers have turned things around.

Heading into Saturday’s game in Morgantown, W.Va., against the No. 12 Sooners, No. 14 West Virginia has won three consecutive games — the last two against ranked opponents — and five of its last six.

“I think first and foremost, we’ve got a great bunch of guys,” Huggins said of the key to turning the season back around. “We got a great bunch of guys who really care about each other and really support each other, and I think that’s really important.”

And West Virginia has gone in a different direction than most of the other Mountaineers teams under Huggins over the last 14 seasons. The Mountaineers are largely using a four-guard lineup, going small as they moved forward without the 6-foot-9 Tshiebwe.

Earlier this season, Oklahoma became just the third team since the Top 25 poll began more than 70 years ago to beat four top-10 opponents in one month. That slate of victories includes that win over the Mountaineers, who were ranked No. 9 at the time.

Now, West Virginia is looking to make its own history.

The Mountaineers have beaten then-No. 23 Kansas and won at No. 7 Texas Tech over the last week for consecutive wins over ranked teams for the first time since the 2004-05 season.

While West Virginia has retooled since the teams last met, so has Oklahoma.

Shortly after that game, the Sooners’ Brady Manek and Jalen Hill — two of the only forwards on Oklahoma’s roster — were held out due to COVID-19 protocols, forcing Sooners coach Lon Kruger to make adjustments of his own.

That led to moving Elijah Harkless into a four-guard starting lineup, where Harkless has thrived, first as a defensive stopper and lately as a bigger part of Oklahoma’s offense.

Harkless is coming off a season-high 19 points in last Saturday’s win over Iowa State where Kruger went to Harkless on three consecutive possessions in the closing minutes and Harkless converted every time to help the Sooners avoid an upset.

Manek’s role has also evolved since that game.

While he was one of Oklahoma’s top offensive weapons early, Manek’s offense has taken a bit of a backseat. He’s coming off a career-high 15 rebounds and a career-high tying four assists in the win over the Cyclones.

“To Brady’s credit, he’s recognized how he can be most effective in getting production and helping the team,” Kruger said.

–Field Level Media

Copyright 2021 Nexstar Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

Sports Video

More Sports Videos

video

More Video

 

College Scoreboard

Barnesville High School

Beallsville High School

Beaver Local High School

Bellaire High School

Bridgeport High School

Brooke High School

Buckeye Local High School

Buckeye Trail High School

Caldwell High School

Cambridge High School

Cameron High School

Clay-Battelle High School

Conotton Valley High School

East Liverpool High School

Edison High School

Fort Frye High School

Harrison Central High School

Hundred High School

Indian Creek High School

John Marshall High School

Linsly High School

Magnolia High School

Martins Ferry High School

Meadowbrook High School

Monroe Central High School

Morgantown High School

Oak Glen High School

Paden City High School

Parkersburg High School

Parkersburg Catholic High School

Parkersburg South High School

River High School

St. Clairsville High School

Shadyside High School

Shenandoah High School

Steubenville High School

Steubenville Catholic Central High School

Toronto High School

Tyler Consolidated High School

Union Local High School

University High School

Valley High School

Weir High School

Weirton Madonna High School

Wellsville High School

Wheeling Central High School

Wheeling Park High School

Don't Miss

Trending Stories

More Top News

WTRF 7News Twitter

12SportsZone Twitter