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OU men's basketball: Sooners' match against No. 13 West Virginia can prove to be critical for March resume

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Sophomore guard Jamal Bieniemy, redshirt junior guard Austin Reaves and junior forward Brady Manek talk during the game against Oklahoma State on Feb. 1.

Oklahoma has a tough challenge ahead when No. 13 West Virginia comes to the Lloyd Noble Center on Saturday.

The Mountaineers are currently No. 3 in the Big 12 standings after an impressive start to conference play. West Virginia has one of the top defenses in the country, ranking No. 2 in in opponent 3-point percentage, No. 3 in opponent field goal percentage and No. 4 in rebounding margin.

“(West Virginia coach Bob Huggins) does a great job, he’s always done a good job,” Oklahoma coach Lon Kruger said, “They’ve got great size, great athleticism and they’re playing really well right now so we know how tough that challenge is.”

Meanwhile the Sooners come into Saturday’s contest struggling with inconsistency on the offensive end. In its last game against Texas Tech, Oklahoma shot 22 percent from behind the arc. The Sooners were able to hang around with the Red Raiders but some late turnovers were too much to overcome.

“We’ve got to execute down the stretch,” Redshirt junior guard Austin Reaves said, “Don’t turn the ball over—I think we had two the last three or four minutes — so that’s it really, just execute what coach gives us and he’ll put us in a situation to be successful.”

Offensively, West Virginia doesn’t have a primary scoring option. The Mountaineers leading scorer, freshman forward Oscar Tshiebwe, averages 11.5 points per game. West Virginia has a very balanced offensive attack with three players scoring over 20 points in a game this season.

In the Sooners' first matchup against Huggins and the Mountaineers this season, the Sooners will be preparing for the high-pressure defense that the Mountaineers play.

“They pressure you like crazy,” Kruger said. “They’re physical, their low post guys are really tough down there. The wings rebound the ball well and the big guys certainly do. They’ve only lost a few times on the year for a reason.”

The Sooners recognize the importance that a win against the No. 13 team in the country can have on their resume in March. ESPN’s Joe Lunardi predicts the Sooners will be a No. 11 seed in the NCAA tournament currently and one of the last four teams to be selected.

Reaves sees the game as an opportunity to get a much-needed Top-25 win at home.

“You always want to win games at home,” Reaves said, “It’s a good opportunity for us to go out and compete and show people what we’re made of.”

Oklahoma will take on West Virginia at 1 p.m. on Saturday on ESPNU.

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