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OSU has been thorn in side for Mountaineers in recent seasons

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — No matter if it’s been good, bad or somewhere in the middle, Oklahoma State has often been a thorn in West Virginia’s side on the basketball court, especially in Morgantown.

The Cowboys own more wins in the WVU Coliseum than any other Big 12 foe, as they are 6-3 all-time in Morgantown and have come away with victories in four of their last five trips to the Coliseum, including an 85-80 triumph last year.

OSU is currently 8-5 overall on the 2021-22 season and 1-1 against Big 12 competition, but they return many of the same Pokes who led the way to two triumphs in three meetings against West Virginia last season — a 72-69 win in Kansas City in the Big 12 Tourney, an 85-80 victory in Morgantown and an 87-84 loss in Stillwater.

The biggest missing piece from last season for Oklahoma State, which was 21-9, is Cade Cunningham, who was the NBA’s No. 1 draft pick this past summer.

But 6-foot-3 junior guard Avery Anderson is back after torching the Mountaineers for 31 points in the Coliseum last year. The Justin, Texas, native is averaging a team-high 11.6 points per game this season.

Also 6-foot-5 guard Isaac Likekele returns for what feels like his 12th season with OSU – it’s actually his fourth, and with the eligibility-free year because of covid last season, he actually could be back in 2022-23 as well. Likekele is averaging 7.2 points and 6.0 rebounds per game so far this season. He’s been particularly harmful against the Mountaineers over the years, averaging 12.2 points and 6.8 rebounds in his six previous games against WVU. Twice he eclipsed 20 points against West Virginia.

“They’re good; they’re really, really good,” said WVU head coach Bob Huggins of the Cowboys, who are guided by fifth-year coach Mike Boynton (80-63). “Likekele hurt us a couple of years ago, actually just took over the game (23 points and nine rebounds in an 85-77 OSU win in 2019 in Stillwater). Both the Boone brothers (6-foot-9 Kalib and 6-foot-8 Keylan) have played really well against us.

“They’re as athletic as can be. They’re a really good team,” added Huggins, whose Mountaineers are 12-2 overall this year and 1-1 in league play. “Mike has done a great job with them.”

The Cowboys come into Tuesday night’s affair (9 p.m. on ESPNU) with momentum, having dispatched 14th-rank Texas, 64-51, Saturday, but OK State had lost four of five prior to that win over the Longhorns in Gallagher-Iba Arena.

If there is a bright spot for the Mountaineers in future games against Oklahoma State, it’s that WVU, while 3-6 against the Pokes in the Coliseum, is 6-3 against them in Stillwater. West Virginia returns the trip to Gallagher-Iba on Saturday, Feb. 12.

* * * * * *

A number of West Virginia’s upcoming basketball games tipoff at unusual times.

Tuesday’s clash with Oklahoma State at the WVU Coliseum begins at 9 p.m. (Eastern), a time that happens occasionally each season for the Mountaineers in order to fill ESPN slots. Saturday’s contest at Kansas starts 2 p.m. for CBS; also a bit unique but not unheard of.

The strangest start times come later in the season when WVU tips off at the Coliseum against Baylor at 5 p.m. on Tuesday, Jan. 18, and then it has a pair of 8 p.m. home starts against Oklahoma on Wednesday, Jan. 26 and Kansas on Saturday, Feb. 19. It has just one remaining home game with a traditional 7 p.m. tip — Iowa State on Tuesday, Feb. 8.

The 5 p.m. weekday start against the No. 1 Bears next Tuesday is the oddest of them all, and you can blame the NFL for that one.

The back story behind that late-afternoon Tuesday tip is that the game was originally slated by ESPN for a Big Monday showdown. But when the NFL expanded its playoffs by two games and moved one of them to a Monday night, ESPN jumped all over the opportunity to broadcast a wildcard round pro football game on Monday night. Thus the basketball games ESPN had planned for that Monday had to be pushed back a day, and in order to get what had been two days worth of college basketball games all televised on the same day, some unusual time slots had to be assigned.

Thus you get Baylor/West Virginia at 5 p.m.

So if you’re rushing to see BU/WVU after work next Tuesday, blame the NFL.