NORMAN, Okla. — The 21st-ranked Oklahoma Sooners figured out how to break through No. 15 West Virginia’s pressure, then dialed up pressure themselves on Tuesday night at home.
The Sooners dominated from the start in a 71-52 win in front of an estimated 6,200 at Lloyd Noble Center, building a 20-point first-half lead and coasting to victory.
“I thought our guys did a good job of trusting each other, moving to be available for each other, fighting the traps a little bit stronger,” Sooners coach Lon Kruger said. “When you play against a really good press like that you’ve got to lean on each other.
“I thought our guys did a good job of being available as receivers at the right time.”
Oklahoma (15-7, 6-4 Big 12) had been less successful against the Mountaineers’ trapping defense in the teams’ first meeting in Morgantown, W.Va., on Jan. 13. West Virginia (18-4, 6-3) scored 27 points off Oklahoma’s turnovers in that game, an 86-65 Mountaineers win.
But Oklahoma flipped things around on West Virginia this time around.
Offensively, the Sooners used forwards Ryan Spangler and TaShawn Thomas to help break the press and got plenty of opportunities from close range early. In a 13-0 run midway through the first half that gave Oklahoma command, all of the Sooners’ points were scored on either layups, dunks or free throws that resulted from shot near the rim.
“We moved the ball around and found open guys,” Spangler said. “Those are the things we worked on all week. We did not want to make it hard on ourselves. If they’re going to press us like that for that long, we have to hit the open guy and make open buckets.”
Spangler, a junior, scored all 10 of his points in the first half while Thomas, a senior, had five assists.
“What press?” West Virginia coach Bob Huggins asked when questioned about his defense. “They were very good. They were very, very good. But as I have said a thousand times and continue to say, the guy (Kruger) can really coach. It’s not like I’m going to outsmart a whole lot of people in this league. We have to execute and we didn’t execute.”
While most of Oklahoma’s points came near the basket — the Sooners scored 38 in the paint – Oklahoma also used the interior to create shots outside.
Junior guard Buddy Hield led the Sooners with 21 points, shooting 8 of 13, including 5 of 7 from behind the 3-point line.
“It was fun,” Hield, the Big 12’s leading scorer, said. “Tay and Ryan and all the guards were just making plays. They found me in good spots. We’re a team that likes to share the ball a lot. I was able to get some open jump shots.”
The Sooners had 16 assists in the win and turned the ball over just 13 times, the fewest by a West Virginia opponent this season.
The Sooners’ 61.5 shooting percentage was Oklahoma’s best since 2005.
It wasn’t just the Sooners’ offense that got after the Mountaineers, though.
West Virginia shot just 37.9 percent from the floor and the Sooners forced 15 turnovers, turning those into 27 points on the other end.
“We haven’t made shots all year but we’ve compensated for it,” Huggins said. “We’ve rebounded offensively, we’ve created turnovers, we’ve created points off turnovers. We haven’t made shots all year.”
Senior guard Juwan Staten led the Mountaineers with 15 points while senior guard Gary Browne added 12.
The Mountaineers briefly cut the lead to eight points early in the second half, but the Sooners responded.
Shortly after Spangler picked up his fourth foul, Oklahoma went to a four-guard lineup and stretched the lead out for good, outscoring the Mountaineers 16-9 in the final 7:45 to cap the blowout.
NOTES: West Virginia sophomore F Devin Williams, the team’s leading rebounder, did not start for the first time this season. Williams was fighting an illness and did not play. … Williams’ replacement in the starting lineup, Elijah Macon, picked up two fouls in the first four minutes. … West Virginia was called for eight fouls before the Sooners were called for their first. … Oklahoma senior F TaShawn Thomas had three first-half assists.
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