Sooners travel to Morgantown for Mountaineers' first-ever Big 12 Conference game Saturday.
||Freshman guard Buddy Hield
Oklahoma (9-3) begins Big 12 Conference play on the road for the sixth time in eight years when it travels to face West Virginia (7-5) on Saturday at 3 p.m. CT inside WVU Coliseum. The contest will mark the first-ever Big 12 game for the Mountaineers. The Sooners have won two straight and are coming off a 72-42 victory over Texas A&M-Corpus Christi on Monday. West Virginia's 74-67 win over Eastern Kentucky on Sunday was its third in a row.
ON THE AIR
Saturday's contest will air on the Sooner Radio Network (KOKC 1520 AM in Oklahoma City; KTBZ 1430 AM in Tulsa) with Ed Murray and Mike Houck calling the action. The game will be televised by the Big 12 Network (KOCB Ch. 24 in OKC; KMYT Ch. 41 in Tulsa; ESPN Full Court) with Dave Armstrong and Stephen Howard announcing.
FIVE THINGS TO KNOW
Oklahoma owns a 2-1 series lead against West Virginia, with one of those wins coming six weeks ago when the Sooners posted a 77-70 victory in the Old Spice Classic third-place game in Orlando, Fla. OU also won at West Virginia, 88-82, in double overtime on Dec. 29, 2007 (game was in Charleston). The Mountaineers posted a 92-68 win on Dec. 22, 2005, in Oklahoma City.
Six Sooners scored at least 8 points in the first meeting with West Virginia on Nov. 25, with junior newcomer Amath M'Baye (19) and freshman Je'lon Hornbeak (14) leading the way. The point totals for both players still stand as season highs. M'Baye was 5-for-6 from the field and 9-for-13 from the free throw line while adding 6 rebounds. Hornbeak was 5-for-9 from the floor and 2-for-3 from 3-point range while adding 5 rebounds and 2 steals.
Oklahoma has already won more games away from home this year (5-2 record) as it did all of last season (4-11 record). The Sooners have 10 more games left on the regular season schedule that will be played away from Lloyd Noble Center (including at West Virginia).
OU has put together two of its best offensive halves of the season over the course of the last two games. The Sooners scored 45 second-half points in Saturday's 74-63 win over Ohio thanks to sizzling 17-for-24 (.708) field goal and 3-for-4 (.750) 3-point shooting. They made 10 straight shots early in the half and later strung together six straight makes against a team that won 29 games last year, went to the NCAA Sweet 16 and has its top nine scorers back. OU followed that effort with a 40-point first half against Texas A&M-Corpus Christi on Monday, going 6-for-13 (.462) from 3-point range in an eventual 72-42 victory.
Steven Pledger's 26.0 minutes per game are the fewest of any Big 12 player to lead his team in the category. In fact, every league squad except Texas Tech and West Virginia has at least two players who average at least 26.0 minutes per game (Baylor has five, Kansas and Oklahoma State have four each, Iowa State, TCU and Texas have three each and Kansas State has two). OU has a league-high nine players who average at least 17.0 minutes per contest (next highest total by a conference team is seven).
M'BAYE EARNS BIG 12 HONOR AGAIN
Junior forward Amath M'Baye was named Big 12 Rookie of the Week on Monday after recording16 points, a team-high-tying 6 rebounds and a season-high 3 steals in OU's lone game last week, a 74-63 win over Ohio on Saturday. M'Baye was 6-for-8 from the field and 4-for-5 from the free throw line in his 22 minutes. It was the second such honor for the Preseason Big 12 Newcomer of the Year, who was also named Rookie of the Week on Nov. 26 following his performance in the three-game Old Spice Classic.
| Sooner to Watch
Amath M'Baye | Jr. | Forward
Named Big 12 Rookie of the Week on Monday for the second time this season
Scored 16 points and grabbed a team-high-tying 6 rebounds Saturday against Ohio
Led OU with a season-high 19 points against West Virginia on Nov. 25
Averaging 15.0 points and 6.0 rebounds the last two games (9.8 points on the season)
PREVIEWING WEST VIRGINIA
In its first year as a member of the Big 12 Conference, West Virginia enters Saturday's game with a 7-5 overall record and a 5-0 home mark. It began the year with a 4-5 record but has won three straight home games since, including a 74-67 decision over Eastern Kentucky in the most recent outing on Sunday. WVU posted a 39-28 rebounding advantage and made 26 more free throws (32-6).
The Mountaineers are shooting .405 from the field, .275 from 3-point range and .718 from the free throw line to rank ninth, ninth and fourth in the Big 12, respectively. They are allowing opponents to shoot .429 from the field (ranks ninth in league) and .347 from behind the 3-point line (eighth). WVU is outrebounding its foes by 4.0 a contest and averages a +2.8 turnover margin (ranks second).
Sophomore guard Juwan Staten averages a team-high 11.1 points per game to go along with 3.3 rebounds and team highs of 2.8 assists and 1.6 steals in 32.0 minutes per game (nobody else averages more than 23.9 minutes). Junior center Aaric Murray is averaging 10.7 points and team highs of 7.8 rebounds (sixth in Big 12) and 1.7 blocks (fifth) in 23.0 minutes per outing. The La Salle transfer averages 3.0 offensive boards a contest. Sophomore guard Gary Browne has come off the bench to supply 9.0 points in 21.4 minutes an outing. Browne (46) and Staten (45) have combined to make 91 free throws on 109 attempts (.835).
The Mountaineers are under the direction of sixth-year head coach Bob Huggins, who owns a 127-61 record at West Virginia. The 1977 WVU graduate is in his 31st season overall and owns a 717-272 career mark.
SERIES WITH THE MOUNTAINEERS
Oklahoma and West Virginia met two times prior to this year's Old Spice Classic matchup, with each program posting a victory. The Sooners won an 88-82 double-overtime affair in the more recent meeting on Dec. 29, 2007, in Charleston, W. Va., under head coach Jeff Capel. OU's win was its first against a ranked team (the Mountaineers were No. 23) in a road game since the 2000-01 season. Longar Longar scored all of his game-high 22 points after halftime, and Blake Griffin registered 18 points and 16 rebounds before fouling out in overtime. David Godbold played all 50 minutes and finished with 18 points, while Austin Johnson played 48 minutes and contributed 13 points and nine assists. Tony Crocker's 3-pointer with 6.6 seconds left in overtime forced a second extra session.
The first meeting occurred on Dec. 21, 2005, in Oklahoma City as part of the All-College Classic and resulted in a 92-68 West Virginia victory. Taj Gray scored a game-high 31 points and pulled down 8 rebounds for Kelvin Sampson's Sooners, but the Mountaineers shot a sizzling .667 from the field and committed just 6 turnovers in a near flawless offensive performance. Kevin Pittsnogle led four West Virginia players in double figures with 25 points, while Johannes Herber netted 21.
EARLIER THIS YEAR VS. WEST VIRGINIA
Oklahoma claimed third place in the eight-team Old Spice Classic with a 77-70 win over West Virginia on Nov. 25 in Orlando, Fla. The Sooners shot .474 from the field (second best performance of the season) while holding the Mountaineers to a .362 mark.
OU started the game 8-for-14 from the free throw line but made its last 11 attempts to finish 19-for-25 (a then-season-high .760).
The game was just the second in Big 12 Conference history between league squads in regular season non-conference play. Texas beat Nebraska in a November 1996 game in Austin (83-81 in overtime), during the first year of the conference.
Junior forward Amath M'Baye scored a season-high 19 points on 5-for-6 field goal and 9-for-13 free throw shooting. He added a team-high-tying 6 rebounds in a season-high 32 minutes of play.
Freshman guard Je'lon Hornbeak was 5-for-9 from the field and 2-for-3 from 3-point range en route to a career-high 14-point effort. He averaged 4.0 points in the three games immediately prior to the contest (was scoreless the previous game against Gonzaga).
Senior guard Sam Grooms played 24 minutes off the bench and handed out a game-high 4 assists without committing a turnover.
OU got the win despite committing a season-high 27 fouls (for perspective, the Sooners have averaged 13.7 fouls in seven games since). West Virginia went 24-for-34 from the free throw line.
The Mountaineers entered the game with a +5.7 average rebounding margin, but OU won the board battle by a 39-38 count. The Sooners were outrebounded by 27 the previous game by Gonzaga.
West Virginia sophomore guard Juwan Staten scored a team-high 15 points on 5-for-8 shooting, while senior forward Deniz Kilicli and sophomore guard Gary Browne (10-for-11 free throw shooting) added 13 each.
OU TEAM UPDATE
As of Thursday, Oklahoma is ranked 29th out of 347 Division I teams in the CBSSports.com RPI (third best in Big 12 behind No. 2 Kansas and No. 22 Oklahoma State). OU was projected by the website on Dec. 27 as a No. 12 NCAA Tournament seed.
The Sooners enter Big 12 play ranked eighth in the league in field goal percentage (.418), seventh in 3-point field goal percentage (.313), and third in free throw percentage (.732). They rank seventh in field goal percentage defense (.407) and fourth in 3-point percentage defense (.288). OU's strength of schedule ranks third in the Big 12 and 46th nationally by CBSSports.com.
OU has played seven games this year decided by seven points or fewer and has won five of them. Last year the Sooners finished 4-5 under the circumstance.
The Sooners have shot at least .714 from the free throw line in six straight games and own a stellar .793 mark during the span.
Oklahoma has exhibited a balanced offensive attack through 12 games, with seven players averaging between 6.3 and 12.6 points per contest, and nobody averaging more than 26.0 minutes. A league-high nine players average at least 17.0 minutes per game. A Sooner has played at least 30 minutes in a game just 11 times this year.
OU returned its top six scorers and 88 percent of its scoring from last season, but newcomers rank third, fourth, seventh and eighth in scoring average. The team's four newcomers have accounted for 40 percent of OU's points (326 of 815).
The Sooners own a 198-131 advantage in points off turnovers on the year (16.5 to 10.9 per game). Oklahoma has done a better job of capitalizing on mistakes, averaging 1.09 points per opponent turnover to foes' 0.85 points per OU miscue.
The Sooners' bench has been key, supplying 310 of the team's 815 points (38 percent). OU's reserves have been outscored just three times in 12 games (vs. Gonzaga, Northwestern State and Ohio). Two starters from last year (Cameron Clark and Sam Grooms) have come off the bench in each of their games, while another, Andrew Fitzgerald, has come off the bench in 11 of 12 contests.
OU PLAYERS UPDATE
Senior forward Romero Osby leads OU in scoring (12.6 ppg), rebounding (6.3 rpg) and blocked shots (0.9 bpg) despite averaging just 23.5 minutes a contest. Since being held to an average of 10.0 points on .333 (8-for-24) shooting over a three-game span, Osby is averaging 14.6 points on .632 (24-for-38) shooting over the last five contests. He has also made all 25 of his free throw attempts during the five-game stretch.
Senior guard Steven Pledger averages 11.5 points in a team-high 26.0 minutes a game. He ranks fifth in the Big 12 with his 2.3 treys per game and seventh with his .375 3-point percentage. The league's leading returning scorer from last year (16.2 ppg), Pledger is coming off games of 18 points (season-high) against Ohio and 17 points against Texas A&M-Corpus Christi (5-for-10 from 3-point range). He has started his last 44 games.
Preseason Big 12 Rookie of the Year Amath M'Baye is averaging 15.0 points (13-for-19 field goal shooting [.684]) and 6.0 rebounds over the last two games after averaging 1.5 points (1-for-5 shooting) and 2.0 boards the previous two. The junior forward, who is averaging 9.8 points and 6.0 rebounds on the year to rank third and second on the team, respectively, has led the Sooners (or tied for the lead) in rebounding in eight of 12 games on the year.
Freshman guard Buddy Hield, who ranks fourth on the team with his 8.4 points and third with his 4.2 rebounds in 22.8 minutes per contest, has started the last two games after coming off the bench the first 10. All he did against Ohio in his first career start was produce OU's highest season totals in assists (7) and steals (4). Over the last four outings, the Freeport, Bahamas, native is averaging 8.3 points, a team-high 5.8 rebounds, 3.0 assists and 1.8 steals. Half of Hield's rebounds this year have been offensive.
After scoring in single digits in each of the first eight games, junior guard/forward Cameron Clark erupted for 17 points on 8-for-12 shooting in the Dec. 15 win over Texas A&M. Clark, who started 60 of 63 games and averaged 8.9 points in 30.4 minutes per contest over his first two seasons, is averaging 6.5 points in 17.3 minutes an outing off the bench this year. After shooting .238 from the field (5-for-21) in the first four games this season, he is shooting .581 in eight games since (25-for-43).
Freshman guard Je'lon Hornbeak has contributed across the board in OU's first 12 games, averaging 6.3 points, 2.8 rebounds, 2.0 assists and 1.3 steals in 23.6 minutes per game. He has started all 12 contests (played point guard the last four games).
A starter every game the last two years, senior forward Andrew Fitzgerald has come off the bench in 11 of 12 games this season. On the year, he averages 6.3 points and 2.8 rebounds in 17.8 minutes an outing. He needs just 21 points to become the 39th member of OU's 1,000-point club. He is coming off a 9-point effort against Texas A&M-Corpus Christi in which he was 4-for-4 from the field.
Senior point guard Sam Grooms started all 31 games last year, led the Big 12 in assist-to-turnover ratio (2.8) and ranked second in assists (6.0 per game). He has come off the bench in each of his 11 games this season (missed Dec. 18 game vs. Stephen F. Austin due to injury) and has racked up a team-high 27 assists against 12 turnovers (2.3 ratio).
The Sooners return home to face Oklahoma State next Saturday (Oct. 12) at 2 p.m. CT. The game will be televised by ESPN2. OU has won eight straight Bedlam meetings in Norman and 11 of the last 12.