No. 14 West Virginia rallied from 19 points down with 11 minutes to go to stun Oklahoma State 87-84 Monday night at Gallagher-Iba Arena in Stillwater, Oklahoma.
For a second straight game, West Virginia battled back from a significant deficit. On Saturday, the Mountaineers fought back from 18 down at Oklahoma to tie the game, but the Sooners held on for a 75-71 victory.
Tonight, guard Deuce McBride got hot at the right time with a couple of massive 3s and Derek Culver rebounded from his poorest performance of the season at Oklahoma to have his best game of the year tonight with 22 points and 19 rebounds.
Culver was 10-of-19 from the floor and grabbed seven of his 19 boards on the offensive glass.
Sixty-three of West Virginia’s 87 points came from Culver, McBride (21) and Taz Sherman (20), but Huggins thought the play of reserve guard Kedrian Johnson had the biggest impact in West Virginia’s comeback win.
Huggins said Johnson was able to put more ball pressure on Oklahoma State’s guards on the defensive end of the floor, and offensively, he took over some of the ballhandling responsibilities from McBride which enabled him to score off the ball.
“Kedrian Johnson was just phenomenal,” said coach Bob Huggins, who won his 300th career game at West Virginia and his 890th overall tonight. “We got him in and he really picked up the tempo and I think he got the rest of the guys playing a little harder.”
As a result, McBride really came alive in the second half by scoring all but two of his 21 points.
Oklahoma State, which led by 10 at halftime, was up 68-49 after two Rondel Walker free throws with 11:15 remaining.
WVU went on a 15-1 run to cut the deficit to four, and then eventually whittled it down to two on a pair of McBride free throws with 3:50 left. A missed Isaac Likekele jumper was rebounded by Culver leading to a McBride 3 to give West Virginia a 76-75 lead – it’s first of the second half.
Another defensive stop led to McBride’s second bomb from much farther out to make it a four-point game with 2:33 to go. After Cade Cunningham and Sherman traded baskets, it came down to free throws for the Mountaineers.
Johnson and Sean McNeil got single charities to go down, and after Walker drilled a 3 to make it a one-point game, McBride made two big ones with 14 seconds left.
Walker had an opportunity to tie the game with five seconds left, but his 3-point try was off the mark and Keylan Boone was unable to follow the miss.
It will take some extensive research to come up with the last time West Virginia overcame a 19-point second half deficit to win a conference game on the road.
Oklahoma State’s freshman sensation Cade Cunningham, the nation’s No. 1-rated recruit, was as good as advertised by finishing with a game-high 25 points on 10-of-16 shooting before fouling out with 31 seconds to go and the Cowboys trailing 83-81.
Likekele, who has been a Mountaineer nemesis throughout his career, contributed 22 for the Cowboys.
West Virginia (9-3, 2-2) shot just 41.4% compared to Oklahoma State’s 47%, but the Mountaineers cleaned up on the glass with 22 offensive rebounds and 36 points in the paint.
Johnson, who played 25 minutes tonight, had 9 points, five assists, three rebounds and a block while finishing with a game-best +/- of 13.
“We’ve got to get him in the game a little more,” Huggins admitted. “What it does it is enables us to take Deuce off the ball where he can score a little bit more for us. And Taz is really coming into his own and score the ball for us.”
Sherman has now scored 39 points in his last two games to boost his season average to 12 points per game.
Walker scored 12 and Bryce Williams added 11 for Oklahoma State, which falls to 7-3, 1-3.
“It was a great team win,” Huggins admitted. “We got contributions from a lot of different people and Deuce made big shots at the end like he normally does.”
West Virginia sorely needed this victory because it has two very tough games on the horizon against No. 4 Texas Saturday afternoon at 1 p.m. at the WVU Coliseum followed by a trip out to No. 2 Baylor in Waco next Tuesday night.
“What we better do is know we need to come back in and get a whole lot better because we’ve got Texas and Baylor coming up, they told me today,” Huggins said. “Texas is our next one and, man, were they good against Kansas. Then it’s Baylor, so we’re going to have to play two really good halves instead of one good one, really, for the rest of the year.”