Sooners take aim at WVU again
BY GUERIN EMIG World Sports Writer
Saturday, January 05, 2013
1/05/13 at 6:20 AM
The best thing about West Virginia playing basketball in the Big 12 Conference is it means Bob Huggins is coaching in it.
The Mountaineers beat Radford on Dec. 22, but that didn't keep Huggins from firing off this beauty on WVUsports.com: "My wife asked me the other day what I wanted for Christmas, and I said, 'Players.' "
So it's a cranky West Virginia coach the Oklahoma Sooners will encounter in Saturday's 3 p.m. matchup in Morgantown, the conference opener for both teams. The Mountaineers aren't exactly terrible - they have won six of their last eight games - but they aren't exactly up to Huggins' standards.
After a 74-67 victory over Eastern Kentucky in West Virginia's last game Dec. 30, he said: "Sixty-three percent they shoot in the second half; that is ridiculous. ... The Celtics shouldn't shoot 63 percent against us in here."
After a 76-71 win over Oakland on Dec. 19, Huggins said: "We got outrebounded by two, turned it over 15 times, and they were dumb turnovers. ... We were going to play full-court pressure, but quite frankly that's hard to do when you can't guard."
Sure sounds like the Sooners can take advantage of some things Saturday afternoon, much like they did Nov. 25. That's the day they took third place at the Old Spice Classic in Orlando by beating West Virginia 77-70.
Forwards Romero Osby, Amath M'Baye and Andrew Fitzgerald munched on the Mountaineers' soft defense, shooting a combined 13-of-19 en route to 36 points. M'Baye was most effective, with a season-high 19 points to go with six rebounds.
It's promising for the Sooners that M'Baye comes into the rematch playing as well as he did six weeks ago. He averaged 15 points and six rebounds in wins over Ohio University and Texas A&M-Corpus Christi right before New Year's.
M'Baye has given OU's front line a lift, while freshman Buddy Hield has done the same for the backcourt. He made his first two college starts against Ohio and Corpus Christi, and he is averaging eight points and a team-high six rebounds over his last four games.
M'Baye, Hield and the rest of their teammates have suffered fits of inconsistency this season. The Sooners' 9-3 pre-conference record should have been better.
But at least things appear to be coming together. Coach Lon Kruger, unlike Huggins, sounds hopeful after his games.
"The feeling of doing it five-on-five defensively, communicating a little better, reacting to one another a little better and more naturally. ... These 12 games have been an opportunity to make progress," Kruger said after OU's 72-42 pasting of Corpus Christi on New Year's Eve. "There were a lot of close ball games, which is good, and a lot of games on the road. That's been good, too. We've got to focus on rebounding and focus on taking good care of the ball and shooting the ball with good rhythm.
"All of these things have been a work in progress throughout, and we're taking steps in the right direction."
Guerin Emig 918-581-8355
West Virginia head coach Bob Huggins argues with an official during the second half of Sunday's game against Eastern Kentucky in Morgantown, W.Va. West Virginia won 74-67. DAVID SMITH/AP