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OU men's basketball: Oklahoma faces tough challenge on Saturday against No. 20 West Virginia

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Kristian Doolittle

Senior forward Krisitan Doolittle jogs back to the bench while holding his facemask during the game against Texas Tech at Chesapeake Energy Arena in OKC on Feb. 25.

Oklahoma has the opportunity to earn its third win over a top-25 opponent when it takes on No. 20 West Virginia on Saturday in Morgantown.

Oklahoma’s last matchup with the Mountaineers, a 69-59 win in Norman, was the Sooners’ first win over a ranked team this season and they led for the majority of the game. Holding a lead for long stretches against West Virginia’s pressure may be more difficult in Morgantown. 

West Virginia holds a 13-1 record in WVU Coliseum but are 3-8 away from home.

“They’re tough, physical, big like always,” Oklahoma coach Lon Kruger said, “Just based on their record, they’re very good at home. Very physical, rebound the basketball, pressure defensively…all those things we know about West Virginia.”

Kruger’s squad is under a similar predicament as the Mountaineers. The Sooners’ are 11-2 in the Lloyd Noble Center and 2-8 on the road. 

Oklahoma will be looking to build off the success they had against Texas Tech on Tuesday. In a 65-51 win over the No. 22-ranked Red Raiders, Oklahoma got some much-needed production out of redshirt sophomore guard Austin Reaves.

The Wichita State-transfer has started to show signs that he’s broken his shooting slump after scoring 24 points against Oklahoma State and a team-high 11 points in the first half against Texas Tech. 

“It’s good to see a couple shots go down and stuff like that,” Reaves said, “Coaches and players had my back throughout the whole year … I’m not shooting it well. So I’m just gonna take my shots and shooting with confidence.”

Meanwhile the Sooners’ leading scorer, senior forward Kristian Doolittle scored a team-high 19 points in his first game wearing a protective mask. He will sport the mask for the rest of the season after breaking his nose in the second half against the Cowboys.

Doolittle played 32 minutes despite having issues with breathing through his nose and pulled down seven rebounds.

“That was very good of Doo,” Kruger said, “Obviously his breathing was more difficult, he got tired more quickly, he was a little bit conscious of getting it hit again…all that stuff goes through your mind. Absolutely that was a really good effort on Doo’s part.”

Doolittle was not at practice on Thursday as he was recovering from a successful surgery on his nose. Despite this, the team says they expect him to play on Saturday.

The Edmond, Oklahoma, native scored 27 points the last time the two teams met but it’s unclear whether the injury will have a bigger impact on his play moving forward. The Mountaineers are successful because of their ability to run up and down the floor and keep constant pressure on the opposing team.

“It’s for 40 minutes,” Reaves said,“they pressure the ball for 40 minutes and you’ve just got to stay sound and play the fundamentals right. And that’s the biggest thing and if we do those things right and take care of the ball … I like our chances.”

Oklahoma will take on No. 20 West Virginia at 3 p.m. CT on Saturday on ESPN2.

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