West Virginia Mountaineers travel to Gallagher-Iba Arena to take on the Oklahoma State Cowboys following a seven-point loss to the Kansas Jayhawks.
TV Schedule: Monday, January 6th, 2019 / 9:00 PM EST / ESPN2
Location: Gallagher-Iba Arena, Stillwater, Oklahoma
Expectations were high for the West Virginia Mountaineers coming into their game against the Kansas Jayhawks. It was a time to prove, after beating Ohio State, the Mountaineers were a top-tier team. Those expectations were not met as West Virginia fell to Kansas on Saturday. Despite having a six-point lead at the end of the first half, Coach Bob Huggins’ Mountaineers were outscored by 13 points in the second half.
This will be a game to ascertain how mentally tough the Mountaineers are. They, like most teams this season because of parity, are riding a perpetual emotional rollercoaster. A big win here, a huge loss in the next game. The way a team responds to adversity is a good indicator of how they will respond in stressful situations during post-season tournaments.
West Virginia Mountaineers forward Oscar Tshiebwe continues to shine for West Virginia with the exception of the Ohio State game. Due to early foul trouble, Tshiebwe only logged eight minutes and was held scoreless in the Mountaineers upset of the Buckeyes. Tshiebwe attempted to make up for lost time against Kansas and hit six of ten field goal attempts. He also pulled down 17 rebounds including eight offensive rebounds. Tshiebwe is a key piece to the Mountaineers team. Down the stretch, Huggins would like to ensure he does not have a repeat of the Tshiebwe situation if the Mountaineers want to have continued success.
Oklahoma State, on the other hand, has not shown nearly as much promise as the Mountaineers. In the Cowboys last game against the Texas Tech Red Raiders, the Cowboys barely showed up. The Red Raiders won the game by 35. The Cowboys are your typical middle of the road team – beating the teams they should and losing to the teams they should lose to.
All hope is not lost with the Cowboys, though. Coach Michael Boynton is in his third year and coming off of a disappointing 12 win year in 2018-19. The Cowboys have almost hit their win total from last year and will surely surpass it this year. The Cowboys are a developing team with a developing coach. This season of college basketball is unpredictable and a Cowboys win is not out of the question.
Oklahoma State’s success hinges on its defense. They have held opponents to 63.6 points per game (63rd in the nation) and have a defensive rating of 90 (51st in the nation). The Cowboys perimeter defense is quietly one of the best in the country. Oklahoma State opponents have only shot 27.6% from three-point range on 333 attempts this year. If this game turns into a low-scoring, defensive battle than Oklahoma State will have a shot.
Despite being in a season of surprises, full of top five teams losing to lower-ranked teams, this game will not be added to the catalog of surprises. West Virginia Mountaineers, looking to prove themselves once again, will come out with more energy and focus than their previous game. Bob Huggins, when he has a good team, always have them mentally ready after a tough loss. Further, the Cowboys just do not have enough talent to compete with the Mountaineers at this point.
Prediction: West Virginia 87, Oklahoma State 70