UPDATING THE SOONERS
Since West Virginia's 77-70 loss to OU on Nov. 25, the Sooners have made a starting lineup change in the backcourt, but still rely on its forwards for much of its scoring and productivity. The trio of Amath M'Baye, Romero Osby and Andrew Fitzgerald combine for 28.7 points and 15.1 rebounds per game, and when swingman Cameron Clark is added in, those numbers swell to 35.2 and 18.1, respectively. Freshman Buddy Hield has moved from a reserve role to a starting spot in the past two games, and is holding steady at 8.4 points and 4.2 rebounds per contest. Je'lon Hornbeak continues to hold down the opposite guard spot with 6.3 points and 2.0 assists per game.
Overall, Oklahoma continues to win with waves of players who are athletic, jump well and cover the floor. The Sooners aren't a great shooting or scoring team, but they rebound well, block shots and make a good percentage (73.2) of their free throw attempts. They have nine players averaging at least 17 minutes per game, and a tenth that just misses double-digit playing time. While none of the subs are huge scorers, the first nine are all productive and capable of contributing good numbers to the box score. That makes them difficult to defend or match up with, as there aren't any players that can be totally ignored on the offensive end or exploited on defense.
That story line was quite evident in the first meeting between the teams this year. Six OU players scored eight points or more in that contest, which still stands as the Sooners' third-highest scoring output of the season. While they will look to replicate that balance, West Virginia will try to improve its defense, which permitted OU to hit 47.4% of their shots, which they have exceeded only once this season.
West Virginia must get more out of its match-up advantages if it is to avenge November's loss to Oklahoma. While the Sooners hold the edge in athletic players at forward, WVU likely has the plus at guard, especially in terms of driving and creating offense. The Mountaineers will need to take advantage of OU's youth at the position, where a pair of freshmen start alongside Steven Pledger. Look for Juwan Staten and Gary Browne to drive repeatedly against the Sooners if they stay in a man-to-man defense.
WVU 7-5, 0-0
OU 9-3, 0-0
Big 12 Net
WVU - 107
OU - 32
WVU also needs to get more productivity from guard Jabarie Hinds, who has been on an up-and-down series of arcs this season. Hinds has talent -- he's just been struggling to fit into WVU's offensive system, and has also had some busts on defense that have earned him immediate bench time from WVU head coach Bob Huggins.
Hinds will have the chance to score, especially from three-point range, if Staten and Browne continue to drive and kick the ball. However, he's been stuck in a terrible shooting slump that has seen him make just eight of his last 39 attempt from the field. He hasn't hit a three since the Virginia Tech game, and that shows the shooting problem is likely as much mental as physical at this point. There would be no better time for him to break out of this slump than the start of the Big 12 season.
Overall, Oklahoma isn't an overwhelming foe. It does have a solid record, but its best win is likely a 64-54 win over Texas A&M -- and that's not exactly a world-beating squad. That's not to say this should be an easy win for WVU, as the Mountaineers haven't set the world on fire either. But if WVU has any meaningful post-season aspirations, this is an opponent that it has to defeat in league play -- especially at home.
Oklahoma junior forward Amath M'Baye has been named the Big 12 Rookie of the Week twice so far this season. The Wyoming transfer is shooting 50.5% from the field and averaging nearly ten points while playing just 23 minutes per game.
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West Virginia's 32 successful free throws against Eastern Kentucky were the most it has made since hitting 35 against Villanova on Feb.1 , 2003.
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West Virginia's bench is outscoring foes by 13.4 points per game this season. Gonzaga, Oklahoma and Duquesne are the only three teams to get more scoring punch off the bench than WVU this year.