Upon further review, more surprising than West Virginia building and losing a 15-point lead Wednesday and the fact Nathan Adrian’s Hail Mary really did enter Dax Miles’ catching radius was Oklahoma had 23 dunks or layups. The Sooners had 35 baskets and four were 3-pointers.
I’m not sure I would have believed that had I not seen it, and even then, I needed to see this shot chart. Shield your eyes!
There’s no other way to put it: That was a bad loss, the sort that can keep a team from getting to a No. 2 seed and prevent it from winning the conference championship. West Virginia is now two games back of Kansas and counts a home loss most everyone expects the Jayhawks won’t acquire this season.
West Virginia is still No. 1 nationally in scoring margin at plus-26.7 points per game … but 17 1/2 points in Big 12 play is a lot. Oklahoma is, by definition, not great with a recent seven-game losing streak, a 7-9 record, four losses in five Big 12 games and a place at No. 143 in today’s RPI.
But nobody’s been the Sooners, who are winless in three road games this season, by 17 points. Wisconsin won by 20 in Madison, but that was Dec. 3, and Oklahoma was pretty good on offense against a very good defense, but the Badgers played a wonderful game. Other than that, losses by seven in overtime on a neutral court against Northern Iowa, four points against Wichita State in Oklahoma City, five points in overtime against Memphis, four points against Auburn on a neutral court, 16 points at home against Baylor, three points at TCU, 11 points at Kansas State and 11 points against Kansas. Covering tonight would say a good bit about the Mountaineers.
The Auburn, Baylor, TCU and Kansas State losses came without Jordan Woodard. Jordan Woodard is a senior and Oklahoma’s point guard, most-experienced player and best talent. He fell ill when a green team was trying to figure out a few things. He came back and Oklahoma fought Kansas and beat Texas Tech. Life for Lon Kruger is easier with Woodard when life is also without Buddy Hield, Isaiah Cousins and Ryan Spangler. Those guys were good. They’re gone.
“That’s a lot,” Bob Huggins said. “Those guys played heavy minutes. The guys on the bench didn’t play nearly as much. It’s hard when you lose a lot of guys who have experience, and on top of that, your most-experienced and best player gets hurt. Lon’s a great coach. He’s not a good coach — he’s a great coach.”
Woodard’s averaging 17.5 points — seven and 27 points in his two games back — to go with 3.6 assists and 5.3 rebounds per game, and he’s shooting 40 percent form 3-point range. He’s back, and he’s back to where he used to and needs to be, which is on the ball and at the free-throw line.
“They got him off the ball last year,” Huggins said. “Cousins had the ball, so then, if you over-helped for cousins or over-helped for Buddy, he was going to get great shots. But give him a lot of credit. He kind of accepts whatever roll Lon think he needs to play for him to be successful.”
Woodard was great as a freshman, but as Hield became a Thing, Kruger gave Cousins more of the ball-handling responsibilities, especially last season, so he and Hield could have the ball most and make the most plays. Woodard was a perfectly competent part of that plan, someone who could get the offense out of danger by taking a pass and creating for himself or a teammate. He became a shockingly good 3-point shooter last year, and that was mandatory if Hield was going to get the attention he received.
Woodard’s assist numbers dropped, as you might expect, but so, too, did his free throw attempts. He can wear out a path to the line, and against the Red Raiders, he was 14-for-14.
“They moved him back to the point,” Huggins said. “I think that’s helped him a lot. He’s a lot like he was his freshman year. They set a lot of ball screens for him, and he does a great job using the ball screens and making shots.”
A challenge for Sagaba Konate and his fellow shot-blockers, to be sure.
If you haven’t seen it yet, here’s the “Men of March” episode featuring Bob Huggins. There’s a wonderful rear view mirror moment that CBS Sports Network couldn’t have possible intended — and if I’m wrong, give them the damn Emmy. Denny Crum gets a mention, too.
From time to time, some of West Virginia’s players will log big minutes. Rarely, though, does it happen in succession like this. I have to think you wouldn’t necessarily figure Phillip as one of those large-chunk candidates, and certainly not before Adrian or Jevon Carter and sometimes Dax Miles.
That’s the trick and the treat of the Mountaineers, I suppose.
Honestly, there’s no better way to put this: You couldn’t have imagined in 2014 that eventual news William Crest is transferring wouldn’t shock anyone and would affect depth at safety and on special teams. But Crest is gone, and since he’ll be a fourth-year junior, it’s fair to wonder if he goes down to Division II or the FCS. He could play right away, and he could also probably play quarterback.
Consensus top 40 by Rivals, Scout and 247Sports. There were 21 signatures on signing day — and a 22nd name didn’t sign because he wasn’t going to make the grades. Twelve of the 21 players didn’t last. That’s hard to overcome and no doubt explains WVU’s need for junior college players.
Among those who did, Ed Muldrow was a good player, Skyler Howard did his thing and Sly Townes didn’t do much. They’re gone. Dravon Askew-Henry will be back following his knee injury, and he remains the treasure of the class, whereas the returning likes of Dontae Angus, Yodny Cajuste, Jaleel Fields, Xavier Preston and Ricky Rogers haven’t been able to make their marks.
This is the 28th week in the top 10 for Bob Huggins. It’s the 27th straight week WVU has been ranked in the AP poll and 47 straight weeks in the coaches’ poll. Makes 13-19 feel like a long time ago, no?
For what it’s worth, Baylor is above the Mountaineers in both polls. Villanova is No. 1 in the AP and Kansas is No. 1 in the coaches’ poll.
The pulling right tackle on this play is Isaiah Hardy, and he’s the large left guard at Lackawanna College. He’s also one of the top pieces of business for West Virginia as signing day approaches with a “new” offensive line coach. The final contact period started Thursday. Signing day is Feb. 1. The Mountaineers have visitors lined up but without the benefit of a home basketball game the first two weekends. Hardy was one of three prospects to make an official visit this weekend.
He claimed an offer from the Mountaineers nearly a year ago, but during the fall, he never took a visit, and said he rarely spoke with the coaches. According to his head coach, Mark Duda, that was largely due to the fact Hardy is not big on the recruiting scene, wanted to focus on his team’s season, and that his lead recruiter was Ron Crook, who was not renewed by WVU earlier this month.
Now? Things are hot and heavy between the two parties, as the Mountaineers sent new offensive line coach Joe Wickline and area recruiter Mark Scott to see Hardy on the first day of the contact period. That was Thursday, and by Saturday afternoon, Hardy was on campus for his official. He will stay until Monday afternoon, and despite verbal offers from over two dozen other programs, he may not take any other visits after this one — always a good sign for WVU.