The West Virginia men’s basketball team suffered a devastating quarterfinal round exit on Thursday against the Oklahoma State Cowboys, 72-69.
West Virginia fought to the very end as it nearly had its second double-digit comeback against Oklahoma State this season after falling behind by 10 points in the second half. The Mountaineers led by as much as eight points before a 21-3 run flipped the momentum in favor of the Cowboys to put them ahead by 10.
WVU head coach Bob Huggins blamed mistakes by the Mountaineers for the furious Oklahoma State comeback.
“We fooled with the ball too much that started that whole thing,” Huggins said on Oklahoma State’s scoring run. “We gave them too many easy chances during that stretch. Then, we had to fight like crazy to get back in the game.”
West Virginia nearly tied the game with a three-pointer from junior guard Sean McNeil. Trailing by three, the Mountaineers kicked the ball out with seconds remaining to McNeil, but he was unable to get a shot off in time.
“We get it back and throw it out, Sean is wide-open, you think, and then that guy comes out of nowhere and he has to pump fake to get the shot off,” Huggins said. “It ended up being a second or less too late. We got what we wanted, but we weren’t supposed to throw it to Taz (Sherman)."
West Virginia dealt with Derek Culver’s deteriorated health as the junior forward was dealing with flu-like symptoms throughout the game. Following halftime, Culver came out to the floor and it was reported that he had received an IV during the half.
Culver nearly earned a double-double as he finished with 11 points and nine rebounds in 30 minutes of action. Huggins said that not having Culver at full strength contributed to West Virginia’s lack of an inside presence in scoring and rebounding the ball for the majority of the game.
“Derek showed a lot of courage,” Huggins said. “He was having a hard time walking, much less running up-and-down the floor. When you lose a 6-foot-11 guy who is your most skilled big, it hurts and hurts your depth. We can hold our own if we play Gabe (Osabuohien) and Derek at the same time, but if we get in foul trouble, then you don’t have anyone to play.”
West Virginia will await the announcement of the NCAA Tournament seedings that are set to be released on Sunday. Huggins said the Mountaineers need to work on blocking out opponents for rebounds and improve defensively before the NCAA Tournament begins.
“We’re going to have to learn how to block out at some point in time,” Huggins said. “We need to take that a little more seriously than we do. We give up too many offensive rebounds and too many offensive baskets when we don’t secure the ball. We have to continue to get better with our defense. I thought our defense was better today than what it has been.”
Despite the loss, Huggins was impressed with the effort of his team against Oklahoma State.
“We can sit here and talk about this and that, but how about the effort our guys gave,” Huggins said. “Derek wasn’t Derek. When we had him in there, we played four against five because he just couldn’t breathe. I thought our guys gave a great effort. We had the one period of time where we just kind of let down a little bit and threw the ball to them, didn’t get back, didn’t rebound the ball, but other than that, I don’t know what else you can ask of them.”