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West Virginia holds on to pick up 79-71 win over Oklahoma in Morgantown

Brandon Knapper showed up to the WVU Coliseum this afternoon and made a statement

NCAA Basketball: Oklahoma at West Virginia Ben Queen-USA TODAY Sports

Redshirt freshman Brandon Knapper had a career high performance to lift West Virginia (10-12, 2-7) over the Oklahoma Sooners (15-7, 3-6) to a final score of 79-71. The win marks the Mountaineers’ first win in two weeks, and just their second since December 30, 2018.

West Virginia drew first blood with a Wesley Harris three on the first possession, but the Sooners answered back with a three of their own by Brady Manek.

The two teams traded baskets for most of the first period, with the Mountaineers trailing by 5 points near the midway point before Knapper emerged and begin to heat up. A Miles Reynolds jumper with 3:30 remaining gave the Sooners a one-point lead, but West Virginia answered with an 8-0 run to end the first half, taking a 33-26 lead into the locker room.

West Virginia managed to hold on to the lead for the entirety of the second half, but the Sooners did give the Mountaineers a scare as they closed the lead to one point twice with just over 6:00 remaining in the game.

Knapper came off the bench in relief of freshman Jordan McCabe — who was given the start in place of an injured James Bolden — to score 25 points on 7-of-10 shooting (4-6 3PT) in 26 minutes.

Freshman Derek Culver picked up his first career start, and finished with 13 points, 14 rebounds for his fourth double-double in twelve games as a Mountaineer. Senior Esa Ahmad joined Culver with a double-double of his own, finishing with 12 points, 13 rebounds and 4 assists in what was arguably his best all-around performance of the season. Wesley Harris finished with 13 points, 7 rebounds.

The win came at a crucial time for the Mountaineers, as they prepare to enter the back half of the Big 12 conference schedule. If West Virginia can build on the momentum they picked up from today’s win over the Sooners, they may be able to dig themselves out of last place in the conference standings. This will, of course, depend on Knapper remaining a scoring threat at the guard position, and Culver and Ahmad continuing to dominate the glass to give the Mountaineers second chance scoring opportunities.

West Virginia returns to action on Monday, when they travel to Lubbock, Texas to seek revenge for their conference opening loss to the now No. 16 ranked Texas Tech Red Raiders. That game tips off at 9:00PM EST and will be broadcast on ESPN. The last meeting between the two programs saw the Red Raiders pull away from the Mountaineers in the closing minutes to take the 62-59 win in Morgantown.