West Virginia struggled early, but a strong finish to the first half sparked an onslaught that ultimately finished in a 65-47 victory over the streaking Oklahoma State Cowboys.
The story in the build up was some possible lineup tinkering, and Bob Huggins stayed true to his word with Taz Sherman and Deuce McBride replacing Jordan McCabe and Derek Culver in the starting five. However, the change failed to produce the desired effect early on. The Mountaineers started cold and struggled to find any sort of rhythm for much of the first half, scoring just 12 points in the game's opening 12 minutes and trailing 19-12 heading into the 8 minute media timeout.
The last 4 minutes salvaged the game (and possibly the season) for West Virginia. Taz Sherman kick-started things with a personal 7-0 run, and a Jermaine Haley 3 as time expired brought the Mountaineers within 5 heading into halftime, despite being outshot 62% to 39% and making just 2/12 from beyond the arc.
The Mountaineers kept things rolling out of the break, and a quick 6-0 run forced Oklahoma State to take a timeout with West Virginia now leading 34-33. Shots that weren't falling in the first half were suddenly starting to drop, and the resulting uptick in intensity on defense and on the glass pushed the lead out to 41-36 heading into the second media break. West Virginia continued to lock down Cowboy shooters as the half wore on, and ultimately surrendered just 13 second half points - their stingiest single-half performance of the season.
It's hard to overstate how much the Mountaineers needed that second half. A team that's looked bereft of confidence for much of the last month was suddenly brimming with it, and the tweaked rotations - with McBride, Sherman, and McNeil playing ahead of McCabe, Knapper, and Harler - seem to be paying early dividends.
McBride and McNeil led the way with 11 points each for West Virginia, while Haley and Sherman each chipped in with 9. Tshiebwe and Culver pounded the glass on both ends as they have for much of the season, combining for 14 points and 25 rebounds.
The Mountaineers travel to Fort Worth on Saturday for a 2pm tip with the TCU Horned Frogs that will be televised on ESPNU.