Oklahoma St West Virginia Basketball

Oklahoma State guard Isaac Likekele (13) drives up court while defended by West Virginia guard James Bolden (3) during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game Saturday, Jan. 12, 2019, in Morgantown, W.Va. (AP Photo/Raymond Thompson)

For the third consecutive year, Oklahoma State traveled to Morgantown, West Virginia, scored more than 80 points and left with a victory.

This one came over a Mountaineers (8-8, 0-4 Big 12) team that is struggling mightily. But the first true road victory of the season was still huge for a young Oklahoma State (8-8, 2-2) squad.

Five thoughts on the win:

Icy roads

With 13:38 left in the first half, Michael Weathers dragged his body off the court to the sideline near the Oklahoma State bench.

After a prolonged timeout, the sophomore guard had to be helped to the locker room with what was reported as a right ankle sprain. He didn't return.

At the time, it was troublesome for an OSU team lacking depth at point guard.

Freshman Isaac Likekele assuaged those concerns with the best performance of his 16-game career.

The 6-foot-4 guard was terrific, dropping 23 points on 7-of-10 shooting, securing nine rebounds and playing 35 minutes of turnover-free basketball. This isn't the West Virginia team of the last four years -- the Mountaineers aren't pressing as much and certainly aren't forcing as many turnovers -- but the statistic was still impressive.

He had 17 points, five rebounds and two assists in 19 second-half minutes, at times singlehandedly keeping WVU at bay as it tried to come back.

With 10 3-point attempts in 16 games, Likekele isn't a shooter. But he might be OSU's best driver. Time and time again, he found an angle to blow past a West Virginia defender. He also made 7-of-9 2-point field goals, showing an innate ability to finish at the rim.

It's unclear how long Weathers might be out. But Likekele showed some leadership in stepping up to fill the void Saturday.

One major area of improvement

A stat that wins games: Oklahoma State had zero live-ball turnovers in the second half.

For the season, OSU's turnover numbers are below average.

In 16 games, the Cowboys have turned the basketball over on 20.1 percent of possessions. That ranks just 242nd in the nation.

But in four Big 12 games, OSU has cut that number to 15.1 percent.

That's the best in the Big 12.

The performance against West Virginia weighs heavily into that statistic. Oklahoma State had five total turnovers in 40 minutes. It had one in the second half -- an offensive foul called on Maurice Calloo.

The Cowboys turned it over on 7.5 percent of possessions for the game. That's the third-best number against WVU since Bob Huggins took the job in 2008. (The others: Seton Hall, 7.3 percent, on Dec. 26, 2009, and Baylor, 6.6 percent, on Feb. 22, 2014.)

It's also the best mark of the Mike Boynton era.

3s in OSU's favor

The trends show Oklahoma State has to be decent shooting from outside to win. After Saturday, OSU is 8-3 when it shoots better than 35 percent from 3-point range and 0-5 when it does not.

Thomas Dziagwa (11 points) was effective early, making all three of his 3s in the first half. Lindy Waters was patient (maybe too much so), waiting until the second half to make his first 3. His ability to look for others after he led OSU in scoring on Tuesday was worth noting.

But it's also what OSU is doing on the defensive end that is impressive.

On Thursday, Boynton was asked what statistics he looks to as storytellers. Deflections and loose balls matter, as do rebounds. But he also mentioned 3-point defense.

In four Big 12 games, opponents are shooting 25-for-109 (22.9 percent) from 3.

Texas and West Virginia combined to shoot 8-of-51 from 3 this week.

Winning despite losing on the glass

For the first time since November, Kentrevious Jones checked into a basketball game.

His time in the game was fleeting, but a building block. He showed a decent post move in making a hook shot when the game was still in question. He struggled to box out and to stay in front of his man defensively, though. He had no rebounds in five minutes.

Jones was in the game because Boynton needed a body with Yor Anei in foul trouble once again. Jones could continue to see chances if OSU's struggles on the glass continue.

West Virginia outrebounded OSU 43-36. That number isn't jarring on the surface, but the Mountaineers owned the offensive glass, grabbing 40 percent (18-of-45) of their misses. The 24-6 advantage in second-chance points was all that kept WVU in the game.

Anei, who has committed at least four fouls in every Big 12 game, was ineffective defensively, with only one defensive board in 12 minutes. Likekele actually led OSU in defensive rebounds with nine, while Cameron McGriff (16 points, 10 rebounds) was once again solid.

With a quick turnaround, this will almost certainly be the coaching staff's emphasis again on Sunday. Baylor, the next opponent, is a top-20 offensive rebounding team in the country.

Turning a corner?

I'll be interested to see what kind of crowd shows up at Gallagher-Iba Arena on Monday as OSU tries to make it three in a row against Baylor.

That game is important for a number of reasons ...

• OSU could go above .500 in Big 12 play for the first time in Boynton's tenure;

• It could win three conference games in a row (not counting the Big 12 tournament) for the first time in two years;

• It could snap a six-game losing streak to Baylor, its longest against anyone in the league.

Oklahoma State has a long way to go before the postseason becomes worth discussing -- the Cowboys got back to .500 overall with the win over West Virginia, too. But if you want to start counting wins, a home game against Baylor is a must-have. 

After Monday, the next two (Iowa State and Oklahoma) and five of the next seven are against teams top-25 in KenPom.

Mark Cooper 



Twitter: @mark_cooperjr