After an embarrassing loss to Baylor at the LNC, the Oklahoma Sooners have once again find themselves in a must-win situation heading into a Big 12 road game. This time, OU faces the struggling West Virginia Mountaineers in an effort to tread water.
Oklahoma (15-6, 3-5 Big 12) at West Virginia (9-12, 1-7 Big 12): 11 a.m. CT at WVU Coliseum (Morgantown, W. Va.)
Commentary: Mark Neely, Fran Fraschilla and Kris Budden
Live Stream: WatchESPN
Radio: Sooner Radio Network (107.7 FM ‘The Franchise’ in Oklahoma City; KTBZ 1430 AM in Tulsa; Tune In Radio App) with Toby Rowland and Kevin Henry announcing
Line: Oklahoma -3 (as of 9 a.m. CT)
About West Virginia
- The Mountaineers have lost eight of their last nine overall, with their lone victory coming against Kansas in Morgantown.
- WVU has dealt with its share of injuries this season, most notably with guard James “Beetle” Bolden and forward Sagaba Konate. The former missed the team’s trip to Ames as he attempted to rehabilitate his ankle, while the latter has missed the last 12 games with an injured knee. Bolden is averaging 12.2 PPG, including a team-high 14.6 points per game in Big 12 play. Prior to the injury, Konate was leading the team i both scoring (13.6 PPG) and rebounding (8 RPG).
- West Virginia is currently led by senior forward Esa Ahmad, who is averaging 12.4 PPG while shooting .473 from the field and .238 from deep.
- Must-win situation - Oklahoma is now 3-5 in Big 12 play, so the Sooners obviously can’t afford to drop a game to the league’s worst team — in Morgantown or otherwise. Even for a team as experienced as this one, crawling out of a 3-6 hole is a daunting task that OU would obviously prefer not to face. Following Saturday, Oklahoma hosts Iowa State and Texas Tech before back-to-back road games against Baylor and TCU. Needless to say, the potential for another nightmarish February is high, and the situation will be even worse if the Sooners can’t top this wounded West Virginia team.
- Beating the press - Jamal Bieniemy has proven to be a capable game manager in recent weeks, but he and Aaron Calixte are about to face a unique task in the form of a Bob Huggins-coached Mountaineer squad. How they handle this challenge is likely the most important factor in today’s game. If they keep their composure and avoid turnovers, this could be a double-digit win. If not, the Sooners are in for a tense affair.
- Points in the paint - With Konate — one of the best rim protectors in the country — out of the picture, West Virginia has a major void defensively. This could mean a breakout performance for someone like Jamuni McNeace, who is still getting back into the swing of things. Guys like Rashard Odomes and Kristian Doolittle can also have big games if they make a concerted effort to get to the bucket. Because of this, I’m pretty confident in a win and a cover today.