SCOUTING THE SOONERS
OU's three-guard lineup features a nicely-balanced trio of backcourters who fill all roles, and a duo up front that rounds out the starting five with a mixture of athleticism and toughness. All five average in double figures in scoring, and there just aren't many chinks in their armor.
Buddy Hield (So., G, 6-4) tops the guards in scoring with 17.0 points per outing, and he also chips in on rebounding duties at 4.4 per game. That's a repetitive theme across the Sooner backcourt, as all three starters grab at least four boards each time out. Isaiah Cousins (So., G, 6-4) has been on an increased scoring streak of late, having posted his ten career best point totals in his last 18 games. He's racking up those total in just more than 28 minutes per game.
Jordan Woodard (Fr., G, 6-0) rounds out a backcourt that is short on experience, but hasn't been fazed by its competition. The freshman is scoring at an 11.3 per game clip while making 41% of his 3-point tries.
Transfer Ryan Spangler (So., F, 6-8), late of Gonzaga, has been a double-double machine, tallying 11.1 and 10.2 respectively. He is one of just 15 players to average a double-double to date, and he hasn't just piled up those numbers against weak foes. He leads the league with nine so far this year, and has eight games where he nabbed 13 boards or more. Cameron Clark bookends him at the opposite forward spot, and is scoring 16.1 points per game. Clark (Sr., F, 6-7) is a scoring threat all over the floor, making 44% from three and getting buckets in the lane and off offensive rebounds.
Je'lon Hornbeak (So., G, 6-4) and Frank Booker (Fr., G, 6-4) get the bulk of backup minutes behind Hield, Cousins and Woodard, combining for almost 10 points per game. Tyler Neal, another strongly built wing, contributes six points and three boards as the primary sub inside.
Oklahoma's key attribute is versatility. All of its starters can score, and can fill a variety of roles. They aren't huge, but they jump well and do a lot of things well as a team, such as rebound and defendd, and thos attibutes have helped push them to a spot near the top of the conference standings.
West Virginia doesn't have to match Oklahoma man for man to get a win. But it likely will have to have more than a one-man show to upset the Sooners.
WVU got a game for the ages from Juwan Staten in its last win -- the last time a Mountaineer had as many points, rebounds and assists in a game as Staten did against Kansas State was in 1978. As great as Staten was, however, such a show probably won't be enough to deal Oklahoma its second consecutive loss.
7:00 PM E
WVU 13-9, 5-4
OU 17-5, 6-3
WVU - 80
OU - 17
OU's balanced game allows it to weather a bad outing from one or two of its starting five, and West Virginia will have to answer that with good performances from some of its supporting cast. Whether that's Remi Dibo or Nathan Adrian hitting shots or Brandon Watkins blocking and changing shots inside, the Mountaineers have to get more consistent production from its lineup. OU puts up a lot of points due to a variety of factors (see out last item in this space) and unless West Virginia is simply on fire from 3-point distance, it's not likely to be able to match that dcoring rate unless everyone is involved.
OU will certainly have looked at video from the Mountaineers' win over K-State, and although it's not their usual method of attack, they can be counted on to run some high ball screens in the middle of the floor, followed by screeners rolling to the hoop. While they don't have hulking big men that can dominate physically inside, their athletic forwards are certainly capable of screening and making a move to the rim. The 3-point shooters at those spots can also execute pick-and-pops or pick-and-fades to set themselves up for long tries, and those will be even more challenging for West Virginia's still-young interior defenders to guard.
The game will feature four of the Big 12's top nine scorers on the season. West Virginia guards Juwan Staten (18.0) and Eron Harris (17.0) rank second and fourth in the league, while OU guard Buddy Hield (17.0) and forward Cameron Clark (16.1) rank fifth and ninth.
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Staten has had one or fewer turnovers in 17 of his last 29 games dating back to last year, and has scored 14 points or more in 14 straight games, including 20 points or more four of the past eight games.
While the latter figures are impressive, its the former that really stand out. Given that WVU puts the ball in his hands for extended periods on almost every possession, his ability to prtect the ball is one of the big reasons the Mountaineers have been competitive this season.
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Oklahoma is 11th in the nation in points per game, but they don't build those totals on great shooting from the field. They are adequate from the floor, and take advantage of their free throw tries, but they simply get more chances due to excellent defensive rebounding (48th nationally), steals (9.6 per game) and a fast pace of play. While WVU has been very efficient in points per possession, matching OU's mark this year, their sheer number of possessions have pushed the Sooners to the top of the nation's scoring charts.
In the chart below, note the wide gap in possessions per game between OU and WVU.