NORMAN, Okla. -- Well, one part of West Virginia's seemingly interminable basketball season is over. At least the Mountaineers don't have any more Big 12 road trips.Yes, there's still next week's league tournament in Kansas City. But at least there are no more visits to strange places with hostile crowds and returns in the wee hours of the morning.West Virginia's last one, Wednesday night to the Lloyd Noble Center, went like so many of the ones before it. The Mountaineers had their moments, but not nearly enough of them."It's like Groundhog Day. Every day's the same,'' WVU coach Bob Huggins said. "It doesn't matter who the other team is.''
This time it was Oklahoma -- for the third time this season -- and in the end the Sooners this one, 83-70. They ran out to an early lead and then fought off multiple WVU challenges down the stretch.The Mountaineers were as close as four points with five minutes to play, but faded in the end, including a brief stretch that included three of their 13 turnovers."We cut it to four and had the ball and then threw it to them,'' Huggins said. "But that's kind of an ongoing thing with us.''Indeed, as is losing. This loss was the fifth in a row for West Virginia (13-17, 6-11 Big 12), which has lost five straight for the first time since 2005 team that reached the Elite Eight lost that many in the middle of the season. It is also the first time in Huggins's Division I coaching career that he has lost five in a row. Before the current streak, he'd not lost as many as four in a row since his first season at Akron in 1984-85. He lost five one time in a row at Walsh, but that was in the NAIA.
The Mountaineers will try to avoid stretching the skid to six games when they finish the regular season at home Saturday afternoon against Iowa State. The 1:30 p.m. game will be the final home game for fourth-year senior Deniz Kilicli, as well as transfer seniors Dominique Rutledge and Matt Humphrey.Oklahoma (20-9, 11-6) strengthened what already seems to be a fairly safe NCAA resume with its fifth win in seven games. The Sooners' two losses in that stretch were both in overtime. It was also OU's third win this season over West Virginia.Eron Harris scored 23 points and Kilicli for the Mountaineers, who also got 10 from Aaric Murray.Both teams shot better than 50 percent from the floor, including West Virginia's 53 percent after starting the game 4-of-11. The Mountaineers were a blistering 16-of-23 in the second half, 69.6 percent.
For a while, Romero Osby, OU's 6-foot-8 senior forward, was doing his best to match the 36-point performance that Kansas' Ben McLemore had against WVU on Saturday. By the break he had 16 points and finished with 26, while Steve Pledger added 20.West Virginia didn't go down quietly, though. The Mountaineers fell behind by 17 points in the first half and by 13 midway through the second half, but put a scare into the Sooners and their 9.857 fans. That was in large part due to Harris, Murray and Kilicli.With Harris and Murray hitting from the outside and Murray and Kilicli scoring inside, a 62-49 Oklahoma lead was trimmed rapidly. A Harris 3-pointer got it all the way down to four, 66-62, and it was still f=four, 68-64, with five minutes to play.
But then the Mountaineers turned the ball over on back-to-back possessions, OU took advantage of both and then some, and soon the margin was 76-64 and the game was over.Afterward, the Mountaineers had a hard time remembering that their second half was actually a pretty good one with that red-hot shooting."It's hard to think about all the good things you did because of all the bad ones,'' said Harris, who made five of his 10 3-point tries.West Virginia was also plagued by an awful inability to prevent Oklahoma from getting offensive rebounds. The Sooners had 23 second-chance points on 14 offensive rebounds."We came in telling them we had to keep them off the foul line. They got 27 foul shots,'' Huggins said. "We said we can't let them have second shots. They got second shots. That's how they beat us before and they beat us again.''West Virginia couldn't have gotten off to a much worse start at the beginning of the game. The Mountaineers fell behind the hot-shooting Sooners 10-1 at the start, trailed by as many as 17 twice and had to rally just to be down 39-28 at halftime.
West Virginia encountered many of its familiar early-game problems. The Mountaineers turned it over on two of the first three possessions and needed to get hot at the end just to shoot 39 percent (11-of-28) from the floor.West Virginia also once again found itself in early foul trouble inside. Kevin Noreen played only eight minutes and had three fouls, while Dominique Rutledge and Aaric Murray had two fouls each. Only Kilicli survived and had 12 first-half points on 5-of-8 shooting.Reach Dave Hickman at 304-348-1734 or firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him at twitter.com/dphickman1