By Wendell Barnhouse | firstname.lastname@example.org
NORMAN, Okla. - As Wayne Gretzky once said, “You miss 100 percent of the shots you don’t take.” The Great One never said anything about missing 100 percent of the shots you do take.
Not that No. 23 Oklahoma was “shooting a no-hitter” (new hybrid sports term, huh?) or anything. But the Sooners’ might have chipped some paint off the rims at the Lloyd Noble Center Wednesday night.
West Virginia had a three-point lead and hopes for an upset with less than 12 minutes remaining but the Sooners found the range in time to post a 72-62 victory. Oklahoma and Texas, which defeated TCU Wednesday night, continue in lock step in the standings. They’re tied for second place with identical overall (22-8) and Big 12 Conference (11-6) records.
"It wasn't a night when it was real smooth, but they kept battling and kept plugging and figured out a way to win a ball game," Oklahoma coach Lon Kruger said. "In the Big 12, if you can do that, you feel pretty good."
West Virginia went on a 9-0 run between the first (15:26) and second media (11:37) media timeouts of the second half. Kevin Noreen’s layup gave the Mountaineers a 43-40 lead as the visitors threatened to ruin Senior Night.
The Sooners had a big edge at the free throw line (West Virginia missed its first six attempts) and OU regained a tenuous 44-43 lead with 10:20 remaining by making four consecutive free throws. At that point, Oklahoma was shooting 32 percent from the field and was a pedestrian 6-of-23 from 3-point range.
Sophomore Buddy Hield, the team’s leading scorer and 3-point shooter, was scoreless and had missed his first six 3-point shots. But in a four-minute span, Hield made four of five from behind the arc. That was part of a 23-7 OU run and a salvo the Mountaineers couldn’t survive.
“It got away from us then and we didn’t score,” West Virginia coach Bob Huggins said. “I thought we knew who he (Hield) was. Some of our guys must not have knew who he was. It looked to me like he was wide open on a lot of those shots.”
Hield’s first 3-pointer game at 9:53 and gave the Sooners a 47-43 lead. The last came at 6:03 and pushed the OU edge to 59-50.
“I felt it coming,” Hield said of his heat check. “All I need is one to go down then I feel like I can hit ‘em all. They trust me shooting the basketball and my teammates and coaches tell me to keep shooting, keep shooting.”
The Sooners made nine of their last 12 shots to raise their shooting percentage to 42.2 percent. Oklahoma, which has made the most 3-pointers in the Big 12, finished 11-for-30 from 3-point range, giving it a 21-point edge on West Virginia, which was 4-for-13.
West Virginia, played its fourth game without sophomore guard Terry Henderson (the team’s third-leading scorer at 12.1 per game), who has been sidelined by illness. The Mountaineers (16-14, 8-9) came into the game with a chance to finish in second place but have now lost four of five and close the regular season by hosting Kansas Saturday.
“We miss him a bunch,” Huggins said. “Those open shots we missed, he’s capable of making. He’s trying to get back.
Juwan Staten continues to prove he has the strongest back in the Big 12. He carried the West Virginia attack in the first half, scoring 16 on 8-of-15 shooting. Staten missed five of eight shots in the second half and scored eight to finish with 24.
“I think part of it is he got tired,” Huggins said. “He’s had the ball in his hands all year and at one point he had played more minutes than anyone in the country.”
“He can go by you so quickly, in the second half we extended out on him,” Kruger said of Staten. “He made (jump) shots and made layups. You’d rather just give up the jump shots and not the layups.”