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Gabe knows how to lead WVU to victory

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — Gabe Osabuohien knows defense. Gabe knows taking charges. Gabe knows rebounding, and Gabe knows passing, too.

But Gabe knows offense? Nah!

Check that, Gabe does know offense … at least he did in Tuesday’s 70-60 victory over Oklahoma State at the WVU Coliseum.

West Virginia’s senior forward scored a season-high 12 points, to go along with eight rebounds, six fouls drawn (three of them charges), two steals, one blocked shot and one assist, to lead the Mountaineers to a win over the OSU. Thus WVU improved its overall record to 13-2 with a 2-1 mark in Big 12 play, while the Pokes dropped to 8-6 overall and 1-2 in the league.

Osabuohien wasn’t the only contributor for West Virginia. Sophomore forward Jalen Bridges also reached his 2021-22 best with 22 points, while Sean McNeil and Taz Sherman added 12 and 13 respectively.

On this night, though, almost all the cheers were for Gabe.

“I just tried to be aggressive,” explained Osabuohien, who was averaging just 3.8 points per game prior to the OSU contest. “They had a really small lineup, so I knew I could attack and have easy shots over their little guards.”

West Virginia got things going fairly early against the Cowboys. WVU has had first-half struggles for much of the season, but that wasn’t the case Tuesday night.

The two combatants traded plenty of missed shots (11) and turnovers (9) in the first nine minutes, leaving the game was tied, 12-12, at that juncture.

But then the Mountaineers went on an 11-2 run to distance themselves from OSU. Osabuohien provided the spark for West Virginia in that spurt, not only with his usual effervescent defense but also by scoring nine points in the period, which was one off his season high for a complete game. The 26.7% free throw shooter, who hadn’t made more than two foul shots in any one game this season, even connected on all three of his tries from the charity stripe in the first 20 minutes, and he wound up making four of four for the game. Osabuohien’s first-half effort helped WVU take a 34-23 lead into the locker room at the half. It wound never trail again.

“I felt comfortable. I was just playing basketball,” noted Osabuohien in reaching double figures in the scoring department for just the fourth time in his 72 games as a Mountaineer. “I even made free throws, and once you see the ball go in a couple times, it gives you confidence and makes things easier.”

West Virginia’s lead grew as large as 16 eight minutes into the second half, but then the visitors tried to fight back. Down 51-37 at the 12:18 mark, Oklahoma State outscored West Virginia 10-3 over the next five minutes to make things interesting.

The Mountaineers had another run left in them, though, this of the 14-3 variety to pull away and secure the win.

“(Scoring) is an added bonus to all the other great things Gabe does on the floor,” said Bridges, who had eclipsed 20 points only one other time in his WVU career – with 22 last season against TCU. “The things he does often don’t show up on the stat sheet. For him to provide that boost on offense, it made things easier.”

“I’m certainly familiar with his ability, but you don’t expect that kind of offensive production from Gabe,” said OK State’s fifth-year head coach Mike Boynton of Osabuohien. “(McNeil and Sherman) didn’t have huge nights, which they’re capable of, but when you have other guys step up like Gabe and Jalen, it gives them a chance to overcome that.”

The Cowboys had won six times in their nine previous trips to the Coliseum, but they wouldn’t make it seven of 10, though.

Gabe knows that.