MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — College basketball teams across the country are now less than three weeks away from Selection Sunday. Conference tournaments will start during the first full week of March, and just four games remain in the regular season for West Virginia.
In other words, the rubber has met the road, and it’s go time.
With just four games left before the postseason, the Mountaineers (15-12, 4-10) are at home once again on Monday night to take on Oklahoma State (16-11, 7-7 Big 12) in what could be considered a “must-win” game for both clubs. Each of the two teams enter the week on the bubble in the latest NCAA Tournament projections.
West Virginia has lost its last three games, most recently when it surrendered an eight-point lead with under nine minutes to go Saturday against Texas Tech.
“You cannot talk to them, show them, drill them any more than we did that we need to win these games if you want to continue to play in [the] postseason,” Hall of Fame head coach Bob Huggins said following the loss to the Red Raiders. “We can’t do it anymore.”
Saturday’s loss inside the Coliseum ended a three-game home winning streak. The Mountaineers are 11-4 at home this season, with all four losses coming against conference opponents.
Taking care of home court has been a sticking point with Huggins and crew, and will be essential on Monday.
“We have talked, and drilled, and talked, and drilled on the fact that we have an advantage here, we’re playing at home – we play well at home, generally,” Huggins said.
West Virginia slipped nine spots in the NET rankings following Saturday’s loss to Texas Tech. The Mountaineers have been stuck on five Quad 1 wins for a while, and suffered its first non-Quad-1 loss.
Those metrics, and others, can be improved with a win over the visiting Cowboys, who rank 37th in the NET.
“Obviously, we got to handle our business… Monday,” said fifth-year guard Erik Stevenson. “We got to take care of business at home like we should have [Saturday].”
Stevenson improved his season scoring average to 14.3 points per game with his 27-point showing against Texas Tech. It was the fifth time he scored 21 points or more in a game this season.
The Mountaineers enter Monday’s contest struggling to make shots. WVU missed 12 of its final 15 shot attempts on Saturday, and put forth its second-worst shooting performance of the season three games ago against nationally ranked Texas. West Virginia is shooting just 43.1 percent as a team over the current three-game losing streak, barely above the program’s 42.0 field goal percentage in conference play this year.
That’s an unwanted trend for Huggins’ crew, which now faces an Oklahoma State team that ranks first in the Big 12 Conference in opponent field goal percentage, allowing less than 40 percent of shot attempts to fall.
West Virginia shot just 36.5 percent (19 of 52) overall from the floor, and just 27.8 percent (5 of 18) from three-point land, in the first meeting with Oklahoma State this season.
OK State has won eight of the last 12 contests with the Mountaineers dating back to Feb. 4, 2017. However, the Cowboys have lost each of their last two games over the past week. Most recently, Oklahoma State surrendered 100 points to nationally ranked TCU.
The Cowboys have a trio of players — Kalib Boone, Bryce Thompson, and Avery Anderson III — averaging between 12.1 and 11.1 points per game, giving Mike Boynton a balanced scoring threat on offense.
Stevenson and Tre Mitchell combined for 33 points in the Jan. 2 meeting against Oklahoma State. Meanwhile, four Oklahoma State players, including the three aforementioned scorers, finished in double-figures, led by Thompson with 15.
Tip-off between WVU and Oklahoma State is set for 7 p.m. ET on ESPN2.