West Virginia’s season nearly reached a high point in its final road game.
Instead, the 20th-ranked Mountaineers will need to regroup Saturday against Oklahoma State in order to avoid heading into the Big 12 tournament on their first three-game losing streak of the season.
After suffering a 78-66 loss at then-No. 19 Baylor last Saturday, West Virginia (22-8, 10-7) jumped out to an 18-point lead at No. 9 Kansas on Tuesday.
Mistakes spoiled the effort, though, as the Mountaineers committed a season-worst 22 turnovers with only 10 assists – their fewest in eight games – and lost 76-69 in overtime. West Virginia was trying to sweep the season series from the regular-season champion Jayhawks.
Seniors Juwan Staten, who leads the team with 14.5 points per game, and Gary Browne both sat out. Freshman guard Daxter Miles Jr. filled the void with season highs of 23 points, five 3-pointers and 42 minutes played.
“Honestly, it’s amazing to be where you are when you don’t have the two senior guards,” coach Bob Huggins told the Mountaineers’ official website. “We still could have, should have won the game. You look back at dumb things we did, missed free throws, calls that didn’t go our way. There’s a lot of things that added up.”
Eleven players saw the floor for West Virginia, five of which played at least 28 minutes. Huggins admitted that the physical and mental toll of the loss could affect the Mountaineers against the Cowboys (18-11, 8-9), who are still in contention for a first-round bye in the conference tournament.
“I don’t think there’s any doubt,” Huggins said. “We’re going to have to get them back, get them back up. We did expend a tremendous amount of energy, and we played everybody we have on our bench.”
Staten and Browne, who are questionable for Saturday, combined for 40 points in a 73-63 win over then-No. 22 Oklahoma State on Feb. 21 that ended a four-game skid in the series.
Oklahoma State snapped a four-game losing streak Wednesday with a 82-70 victory over TCU. Le’Bryan Nash and Anthony Hickey each scored 20 for the Cowboys, who solved their turnover issues with a season-low five after averaging 14.5 over the skid.
That trend will be difficult to continue against West Virginia, which leads the nation by forcing 20.1 turnovers per game.
“West Virginia is one of the better teams in the country right now,” coach Travis Ford told the Cowboys’ official website. “They’ve really forced their style of play onto a lot of teams. I thought we played them real well for about 25 minutes, then they dominated the last 15.
“Bob Huggins should be considered one of the coaches of the year in the country. He’s got them playing hard, playing together.”
Nash leads the team with an average of 17.0 points and has scored in double figures in every game. He matched his second-lowest mark of the season with 12 points last month against West Virginia after scoring a career-best 29 in an 81-75 win in the previous meeting last Jan. 25.