NORMAN, Okla. -- Oklahoma fell victim to a barrage of 3-point attempts in losing an overtime decision to West Virginia in Morgantown last month. The Sooners weren't about to let that happen again Wednesday night.Not only did Oklahoma put the clamps on West Virginia's perimeter offense, the Sooners also let loose with their own bombs-away attack, using well-place 3-pointers to earn a 72-62 win over the Mountaineers at the Lloyd Noble Center.The difference? Buddy Hield. That he is one of the Big 12's best 3-point shooters is no secret. That West Virginia allowed him to essentially take over the game when it mattered most -- after shutting him down up until that point -- fairly mystified Bob Huggins."I thought we knew who he was,'' the West Virginia coach said. "Apparently some of our guys didn't know who he was.''
Hield's four 3-pointers in a matter of 92 seconds broke open a game that WVU seemed as if it had every chance to win. And because of that, the Mountaineers now find themselves with their backs to the wall.That's because the loss dealt yet another blow to any faint hopes West Virginia might have had of reaching the NCAA tournament short of winning next week's Big 12 tournament in Kansas City. The Mountaineers (16-14, 8-9 Big 12) can still make a bit of a statement by winning their regular-season finale at home against No. 8 Kansas Saturday, but even then they would be only three games over .500 with no quality non-conference wins.The loss was also a setback to WVU's hopes of avoiding the play-in round of the Big 12 tournament that includes the bottom four teams in the final standings. With one game to play, West Virginia, Oklahoma State and Baylor are all tied at 8-9 in the league and only one will avoid finishing in the bottom four.All three face difficult finales. Oklahoma State is at Iowa State and Baylor plays on the road at Kansas State. If WVU beats Kansas and the other two lose, the Mountaineers would earn the final first-round bye. But at either 9-9 or 8-10, West Virginia would lose any tie-breaker involving Oklahoma State and a tie with Baylor is difficult to predict until all of Saturday's games are played.Oklahoma, meanwhile, won for the fourth time in the last five games -- the only loss was at Kansas -- and continues its push for perhaps a top-four seed in the NCAA tournament. The Sooners (22-8, 11-6) also have a chance of earning the second seed behind Kansas in the Big 12 tournament."This definitely would have helped,'' freshman Devin Williams said of winning Wednesday's game and improving the prospects for the postseason. "I don't think it's over, though, because we still have one more game to play and the conference tournament.''In the first meeting between the teams, a 91-86 West Virginia win in overtime exactly a month earlier, the Mountaineers set a season-high for 3-point attempts with 32. Eron Harris got hot that night, had 26 points after halftime and the Sooners couldn't keep pace.This time OU made it a point not to allow Harris in particular or WVU in general to get open 3-point looks. Harris didn't score at all until more than 27 minutes had elapsed and the Mountaineers didn't even attempt a 3-pointer until eight minutes had been played.Meanwhile, Oklahoma was firing away from the start. The Sooners made enough of their 3-point attempts (11 of 30) to maintain the lead most of the night, then when West Virginia did challenge and took a 43-40 lead midway through the second half, Hield answered.The Sooners' primary 3-point threat, Hield had missed his first six 3s and his first seven shots overall. But then he made three in a row and four in a span of just a few minutes to ignite OU. Pretty soon West Virginia's 43-40 lead had turned into a 63-50 deficit and the Sooners were never threatened again."The beginning of the second half, I thought we guarded well,'' said Williams, who would finish with 14 points and 12 rebounds, his seventh double-double of the season and second in as many games. "But Buddy Hield hit three in a row and that kind of changed the game. I think it took some of the energy from us.''
Still, despite the disparity in 3s -- WVU managed to try just seven in the first half and made only two, then finished the game 4-for-13 -- the Mountaineers stayed close mainly because of Juwan Staten. The junior point guard had 16 points in the first half and 23 for the game, even though he rarely made it to the free-throw line.But that wasn't enough to make up for Harris' season-low five points. The sophomore guard fouled out with a couple of minutes remaining, having gone 2-for-9 shooting. It was just the third time this season Harris failed to reach double figures.Cameron Clark led Oklahoma with 19 points, while Hield added 13, 12 of them in that brief, decisive stretch. Reach Dave Hickman at 304-348-1734 or firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him at Twitter.com/dphickman1.
OKLAHOMA 72, WEST VIRGINIA 62 West Virginia (16-14, 8-9)Player FG FT R A P
Williams 6-12 2-5 12 2 14Dibo 1-7 0-0 5 0 2
Adrian 0-1 0-0 2 0 0Staten 11-23 2-3 6 3 24Harris 2-9 0-0 3 1 5Noreen 1-2 0-0 2 1 2Watkins 0-0 0-2 0 0 0Connor 1-3 0-0 1 1 3Browne 5-7 0-0 5 2 12Totals 27-64 4-10 39 10 62Oklahoma (22-8, 11-6Player FG FT R A PClark 8-15 1-1 10 1 19Spangler 1-2 2-2 8 1 4Cousins 2-6 2-2 3 3 7Heild 4-12 1-2 1 0 13Woodard 3-5 2-2 0 4 9Neal 0-2 0-0 1 1 0Bennett 0-1 2-2 2 0 2Hornbeak 3-5 4-6 5 3 11Booker 2-7 1-3 2 0 7Totals 23-55 15-20 37 13 72Halftime - Oklahoma 33-28. 3-point goals - West Virginia 4-13 (Dibo 0-3, Adrian 0-1, Harris 1-3, Connor 1-3, Browne 2-3). Oklahoma 11-30 (Clark 2-5, Cousins 1-2, Hield 4-11, Woodard 1-1, Neal 0-2, Hornbeak 1-2, Booker 2-7). Technicals - None.