Tahlequah Daily Press

Sports

February 6, 2014

Road-weary Sooners lose to W. Virginia in OT

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — A 2,000-mile trip to West Virginia that took 24 hours and included a detour to New Jersey was a big challenge for No. 21 Oklahoma.

Playing the Mountaineers turned out to be a test, too, and now the Sooners have their first losing streak of the season after falling to West Virginia 91-86 in overtime Wednesday night.

“Yeah, it was pretty tough having to travel and having to keep thinking about where we were going to end up, where our next destination was,” Oklahoma’s Jordan Woodard said. “But we just kept telling each other we have to stay mentally focused and concentrate on the game. We knew we were going to get here eventually, and whenever we got here we were going to keep it between the lines.”

The Sooners’ flight out of Oklahoma City was delayed for several hours Tuesday due to mechanical issues before the team switched planes.

After the plane began descending to an airport in Clarksburg, a half hour south of Morgantown, visibility problems during a winter storm forced the pilot to abort the landing. Similar problems at other airports forced the flight to divert to Newark, N.J. The Sooners checked into a hotel there at 3:30 a.m. Wednesday.

Twelve hours later, after yet another delay on the runway, the team boarded a flight for Clarksburg. Upon landing, the Sooners got a state police escort and arrived at the arena 90 minutes before tipoff.

Oklahoma coach Lon Kruger said he didn’t believe the travel slowed his players’ performances.

“These guys are young and they love to play,” Kruger said. “I didn’t see any of it today.”

Sophomore Eron Harris was the difference for West Virginia, scoring 26 of his 28 points after halftime as the Mountaineers broke a streak of 16 straight losses against opponents in The Associated Press poll dating to the 2011-12 season.

“This is probably the first big win in my life,” Harris said. “I’m finally part of beating a ranked team in D-I college basketball — that’s a dream for me.”

Harris forced overtime with a 3-pointer with 20 seconds left in regulation and scored six of West Virginia’s 10 points in the extra period. He went 10 of 18 from the field, including six 3-pointers, in his best performance in more than two months.

Harris said he made no adjustments after attempting just three shots in the first half and picking up two fouls. His focus after halftime was simply on not fouling again and landing a spot on the bench.

His instinct to score quickly took over.

“My hungriness to win just comes in to play, so I just had to stay in the game,” he said.

West Virginia needed his late sharpshooting because leading-scorer Juwan Staten, coming off a 35-point performance Saturday in a win over Kansas State, got few shots to fall after halftime.

Still, Staten finished with 20 points, 10 rebounds and six assists for the Mountaineers (14-9, 6-4 Big 12), who won their third straight. Terry Henderson scored 17 points.

The Sooners overcame their travel woes and a 14-point deficit in the second half but were limited to five points in overtime in losing their second straight.

Oklahoma was sluggish on both ends of the court. The Sooners shot 41 percent (28 of 69) from the field and surrendered the second-most points they have allowed all season.

Woodard led the Sooners (17-6, 6-4) with 23 points. Tyler Neal added 16 points, Buddy Hield had 15 and Ryan Spangler 10.

West Virginia coach Bob Huggins wasn’t pleased his team let its guard down after building a double-digit lead.

“I told them, I’m 60 and they have to stop doing this,” Huggins said. “When we’re up, we’ve got to make free throws and stop throwing it around.”

Harris hit two 3-pointers in overtime, the second putting West Virginia ahead to stay, 87-84, with 2:36 left.

Woodard had all five of Oklahoma points in overtime, including a layup with 1:33 left. But the Sooners didn’t score again.

Staten made his first field goal since the first half with 59 seconds left, and he and Nathan Adrian each made a free throw to seal the win.

Harris gave West Virginia its largest lead, 46-32, with a 3-pointer to start the second half.

“We didn’t do a good job of slowing him down in the second half,” Kruger said of Harris.

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