Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

MICKEY FURFARI

January 13, 2014

WVU-Oklahoma State: A masterpiece!

MORGANTOWN — OK, so it is becoming something of an old story for the West Virginia University men’s basketball team to lose winnable games it could have won.

Obviously, the most recent was last Saturday’s heartbreaking 73-72 thriller to nationally 11th-ranked Oklahoma State (14-2, 2-1 Big 12) at the WVU Coliseum. The Mountaineers (10-6, 2-1 Big 12) were performing before the season’s largest crowd of 12,078.

The setting couldn’t have been better for a smashing, confidence-building upset victory. But, unfortunately and unhappily for everyone rooting for the gold and blue, it did not happen.

However, except for the game-ending outcome, if a West Virginia sports fan didn’t enjoy that spectacular, nip-and-tuck contest he or she should probably give up watching basketball.

That was a classic in every respect! It appeared to be one of the greatest basketball battles by West Virginia University and its ranked opponent to someone who has been covering sports on the WVU beat for more than 70 years.

The Cowboys, like the Mountaineers, deserve considerable credit for that outstanding matchup.

West Virginia now has played 15 consecutive games against Top 25 teams without winning one in more than two years.

What’s more, some of those were winnable, just like last Saturday’s. Veteran coach Bob Huggins knows that. So do members of this year’s squad.

“Once again we lost a game that we should have won,” said sophomore guard Eron Harris. “We almost had it. Everybody is seeing that we can beat those (better) teams. We almost beat Wisconsin. We almost beat Purdue. Every big game we have, we almost win.”

Despite the stinging setback against Oklahoma State, Huggins stressed that he believes this year’s team is actually closer to beating an opponent of OSU’s caliber.

“I don’t now why the ball didn’t go in,” he said of Jwan Staten’s would-be winning shot as the last 11 seconds wound down. “I didn’t know why we didn’t tip it in once the ball didn’t go in.”

Staten, a 6-foot-1 junior point guard, scored 20 points. He also had a game-high eight assists, five rebounds and three steals. Devin Williams, 6-9 freshman forward, had his fifth double-double with a game-high 13 rebounds and 12 points.

Harris chipped in 11 points.

While WVU outrebounded the Cowboys 38-35, it shot only 41.4 percent (24 of 58) to their 44.8 (13 of 29).

The Mountaineers’ foul shooting continued to be great. They cashed in 14 of 17 free throws (84.2 percent), to 11 of 16 (68.6 percent) for OSU.

Marcus Smart, a 6-foot sophomore guard, led Oklahoma State with 22 points and 13 rebounds.

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MICKEY FURFARI