MORGANTOWN, W.Va. (AP) West Virginia didn’t squander a double-digit lead this time even with injured seniors Juwan Staten and Gary Browne in street clothes for their final home game.
Devin Williams tied a career-high with 22 points to lead the 20th-ranked Mountaineers to an 81-72 victory over Oklahoma State in the teams’ regular-season finale Saturday.
The Mountaineers (23-8, 11-7 Big 12) ended a two-game losing streak and earned their best regular-season record since getting 24 wins in 2009-10 en route to the Final Four.
With no seniors in the lineup on Senior Day, Williams and a group of first-year players sent them out a winner at home.
”They’re not going to let the season go,” West Virginia coach Bob Huggins said. ”They’re too competitive to do that. It’s not in their DNA to give up.”
Staten missed his third straight game with a left knee injury. Browne sprained his left ankle in a loss a week ago at No. 14 Baylor.
The pair had combined for 40 points in a 73-63 win at Oklahoma State three weeks ago.
Using the same lineup that led No. 9 Kansas by as many as 18 points before the Mountaineers lost in overtime on the road Tuesday night, West Virginia went ahead to stay early against Oklahoma State.
”They have some guys who have really stepped up and played at a high level since the other two guys have been out,” Oklahoma State coach Travis Ford said. ”Coming off of a tough loss the other night, they responded really well.”
Freshman Daxter Miles Jr. added 15 points for West Virginia. Williams had 13 rebounds for his eighth double-double of the season.
Most of Williams’ work came from the free throw line, where he went 14 of 15.
”I’m just going to do whatever I can and take the opportunities that reveal themselves in front of me,” Williams said.
Williams’ three-point play staked West Virginia to a 53-39 lead early in the second half before the Mountaineers went scoreless over the next 3 minutes.
Phil Forte made two 3-pointers in between getting poked in his right eye to bring Oklahoma State within 55-49, but the Cowboys got no closer.
Jaysean Paige hit a baseline jumper and a 3-pointer during an 8-0 run that put West Virginia ahead 65-50 with 6:43 left.
Jeff Newberry scored a career-high 23 points on 8 of 11 shooting for Oklahoma State. Anthony Hickey added 17 points, Forte had 13 and Le’Bryan Nash 10.
The Cowboys (18-12, 8-10) head into the conference tournament with losses in five of their last six games.
”We didn’t play bad, we just couldn’t ever get the big rebound or the big stop that we needed to get a run going,” Ford said.
Oklahoma State: The Cowboys’ only lead came on the game’s first basket, a 3-pointer by Newberry. … The Cowboys shot 54 percent (26 of 48) for the game but were outscored 23-9 from the free throw line. … Nash left the game briefly early in the second half after West Virginia’s Nathan Adrian rolled onto his ankle during a chase for a loose ball. Nash didn’t make a field goal over the final 30 minutes of the game.
West Virginia: The Mountaineers got 28 points from their bench, including nine from Paige and eight apiece from Tarik Phillip and Elijah Macon.
Browne and Staten exchanged long hugs with Huggins during pregame introductions. Both players thanked the crowd for supporting them during their careers.
”You guys took me in and treated me as one of your own,” said Staten, who transferred from Dayton after his freshman season. ”You watched me grow from a boy to a man. I could always count on basketball. I could always count on the crowd. I appreciate everything.”
In addition to injuries to Staten and Browne, backup forward Brandon Watkins has played sparingly since scoring a career-high 14 points and spraining his left knee in a win a month ago over Kansas State. Huggins said after Saturday’s game that Watkins will likely need surgery after the season, while Williams and Adrian also are playing hurt.
Both teams play in the Big 12 tournament starting Wednesday in Kansas City, Missouri.