A second half comeback was not enough for West Virginia as the ninth-ranked Mountaineers fell to Oklahoma on the road in Big 12 Conference action, 75-71.
Guard Umoja Gibson was a real problem for West Virginia defensively, dropping a career-high 29 points on 71.4 shooting — with many of those shots seemingly coming at decisive moments in the contest.
The game was close for the first ten minutes. Jalen Bridges got his first start for the Mountaineers, and he opened strong with 11 first-half points including a trio of three-pointers.
Soon enough, WVU started fighting an uphill battle. Oklahoma built a solid double-digit lead as time wound down in the half behind a 19-4 run in the last eight minutes. For much of the period, every WVU bucket was met with at least two Sooner scores.
At half, WVU trailed by 18.
The break seemed to swing momentum right back in WVU’s favor, as a three-pointer from Bridges to start the half opened up a 12-2 run to get the deficit back within single digits.
Taz Sherman showed out in the second half, going off for 19, just below his career-high.
Sherman’s hot streak was enough to get the game within easy reach for WVU, even tying it up on three occasions — but on the other end, Gibson was just as hot, answering everything the Mountaineers threw at Oklahoma.
WVU still had a chance to win the game until the final whistle. With just two seconds left on the clock and down by four, WVU manufactured immediate points on an inbound to Bridges — however, on the ensuing inbound for OU, Austin Reaves streaked down the court and was wide open, forcing WVU to foul once more and ending the game effectively.
The Mountaineers seemed to struggle in its first game without Oscar Tshiebwe, losing the battle on the glass, 41-36, as well as in the paint, 26 points inside to 16. Withouth Tshiebwe, Oklahoma aggressively defended star WVU forward Derek Culver, who finished with two points and six rebounds.
Bridges was a major bright spot for the Mountaineers, adding 19 points. He was one of four Mountaineers in double-digits, along with Sherman, Deuce McBride (15 points) and Emmitt Matthews Jr. (11).
The loss moves No. 9 WVU to 8-3 on the season, including a 1-2 mark in the Big 12 Conference. It was the first half of a two-game road trip for the Mountaineers, which will close out on Jan. 4 at Oklahoma State.