OU basketball drops fifth straight conference game with blowout loss to West Virginia
West Virginia’s entire bench rose to its feet as Josiah Harris splashed a corner 3-pointer.
It was happy for the freshman guard, who is one of the last players in the Mountaineers' rotation. But Harris got to see the floor in the closing seconds of West Virginia's 93-61 win over OU on Saturday in Morgantown, W.Va.
The game was no longer in question by the time Harris checked in. West Virginia dominated from the opening jump thanks in part to Erik Stevenson, who erupted for a career-high 34 points, and OU had no answers.
"We've got to be better," OU head coach Porter Moser said of the Mountaineers. "That kid (Stevenson) played a great game. ... I thought they played so hard defensively. They're older, physical guys. And we didn't handle it well."
It isn’t common for a bench to get emptied in Big 12 play. The conference is hailed for having the most parity in the nation.
But it’s a sight the Sooners have gotten used to seeing as of late.
OU (12-11, 2-8 Big 12) extended its conference losing streak to five on Saturday. It has seen the opposing bench get emptied in its last three losses, which have come by an average of 23 points.
Here are three takeaways from the loss:
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Porter Moser experiments with lineup to no avail
Moser did everything he could in the first half to get his team out of its slump.
The Sooners began the game with a three-guard lineup. Sophomore guard Bijan Cortes got his first career start in replacement of senior forward Jacob Groves, who had started every game for OU this season.
Moser then went with an even smaller lineup later in the half.
He placed 6-foot-6 forward Jalen Hill at center and surrounded him with four guards, including Joe Bamisile. The George Washington transfer had only logged six minutes of Big 12 action prior to Saturday.
Moser even gave a larger role to Otega Oweh. The freshman guard played 11 minutes in the first half, which marked a season-high amount for a half.
But none of Moser’s changes proved to be a winning formula for the Sooners, who trailed 56-30 at halftime. It’s the most points the Mountaineers have scored in the first half of a game all season.
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Grant Sherfield gets little scoring help
Grant Sherfield didn’t need much space.
After drilling a 3-pointer on the previous possession, the senior guard called for the ball once again. Cortes dished it to Sherfield, who lost his defender while coming off a screen.
Sherfield took one dribble before stepping into a 3-point attempt, which he sank despite a good contest by Stevenson.
The 3-pointer trimmed the Mountaineers’ lead to 25-22 with 9:31 left until halftime, and Sherfield skipped down the court with confidence as he got back on defense.
It was that kind of a first half for Sherfield, who lit West Virginia up for 14 points on 4-for-7 shooting from deep.
But OU’s go-to top scorer didn’t get much help. The rest of the team scored just 16 points in the first half on 5-for-17 shooting from the floor (29.4%) and 0-for-6 shooting from deep.
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OU’s struggles start down low
OU got a combined 24 minutes out of senior center Tanner Groves and his backup, Sam Godwin. Both players fouled out of the contest.
The lack of a defensive anchor down low took a toll on the Sooners, who got dominated by the Mountaineers.
West Virginia recorded 36 points in the paint. It won the rebounding battle, 43-35. It converted 15 offensive boards into 22 second-chance points.
Tanner Groves and Godwin have struggled to stay out of foul trouble as of late. And while that isn’t the only reason OU lost Saturday, a lack of production at the five didn’t help the cause.
This article originally appeared on Oklahoman: Oklahoma men's basketball: Sooners suffer blowout loss to West Virginia