The West Virginia men’s basketball team has a chance to match its longest conference winning streak since officially joining the Big 12 with a victory over visiting No. 21 Oklahoma tonight at the WVU Coliseum.
The Mountaineers have won two league games in a row for the second time this season, but are 0-16 in their last 16 games against ranked teams, including an 0-4 mark so far this season.
West Virginia (13-9, 5-4 Big 12) is also just 1-4 all-time against Oklahoma (17-5, 6-3), who has taken the last four meetings between these still relatively new conference opponents.
Meanwhile, the Sooners are coming off a six-point loss at Iowa State after running off four straight league wins, including victories over two top-25 opponents.
Oklahoma is 3-2 on the road but has also dropped just two games to schools outside the top 25 all year.
Sooners’ head coach Lon Kruger is 52-33 in his three seasons in Norman and is 531-337 overall with notable head coaching stints at Kansas State, Florida, Illinois and UNLV over the last 25-plus years.
“Lon goes a great job,” said WVU head coach Bob Huggins. “He’s obviously won everywhere he’s ever been.”
Every one of Oklahoma’s probable starters average at least double figures in scoring and are led by senior guard Cameron Clark and sophomore guard Buddy Hield, who average 16.1 and 17 points per game, respectively.
Sophomore forward Ryan Spangler is also having a breakout season and is averaging a double-double on the season with 11.1 points per game and 10.2 rebounds per contest.
“Those freshmen from a year ago have that year under their belt and have played extremely well,” Huggins said.
“And Ryan Spangler is obviously the best rebounder in the league, maybe the best player in the league.”
As a team, the Sooners are the No. 3 offense in the Big 12 at 83.5 points per game, but Oklahoma has also allowed more points than any other team in the conference.
“They’re a good team,” said sophomore guard Terry Henderson.
“They have a lot of shooters, and they make shots. It’s going to be a good game. Hopefully we’ll have a good crowd for them.”
West Virginia ranks in the middle of the pack in most team Big 12 statistical categories – other than turnover margin, in which the Mountaineers rank No. 1 – but junior guard Juwan Staten leads the conference in points, assists and total minutes played in league competition.
Staten is fresh off a career-high 35 points in a win against Kansas State and has put himself right in the thick of the Big 12 Player of the Year race with his recent performances.
“He’s been terrific,” Huggins said. “He’s really studied film and tried to learn the game. He’s just gotten so much better with his decision making – when to go, when not to go or give the ball to other guys.
“And he’s worked really hard on his shooting. When he makes that 17 or 18-foot jumper, he’s hard to guard. ”
Oklahoma is just the first of four consecutive ranked opponents for the WVU, who will be looking to knock off a top-25 adversary for the first time since January 2012 against then-No. 9 Georgetown. All five of WVU’s last five wins against ranked opponents have indeed occurred at the WVU Coliseum.
“Our confidence is very high right now,” Staten said. “We’re coming off a two-game winning streak. We’re feeling good about ourselves, making shots and playing together, so our confidence is great.”