West Virginia arrived in Norman, Oklahoma a different team... literally. Gone was a five-star big man and freshman Isaiah Cottrell, who sustained an season-ending achilles injury earlier in the week.
Red-shirt freshman and West Virginia-native Jalen Bridges got his first career start and would not disappoint.
The first half started with a positive with Miles McBride and Derek Culver active and leading the first couple of minutes.
In the first 2:58 of the game, the Mountaineers scored ten points and led Oklahoma 10-6.
The last 17:02 the WVU would painfully muster only 10 more points and allow 32 points by the Sooners.
In a half marred with bizarre technical fouls and questionable intentionally overly-physical play by the Sooners, the Mountaineers found themselves down 38-20 at the half. Bridges had 11 of West Virginia’s 20 points.
The previously dejected Mountaineers came out in the second half with purpose and fire.
A Bridges three, an Emmitt Matthews dunk, four Sean McNeil free throws and a dunk by McBridge gave the Mountaineers a 9-0 run to start the second stanza.
From there, Taz Sherman fueled the comeback.
Sherman scored 19 points on 10 of 14 shooting bring WVU all the way back from the dead.
The Mountaineers would tie the game twice, and 55 and 60, but were unable to overcome the Sooners in the second half, losing in Norman 75-71.
Derek Culver ended the game with only two points and six rebounds. Oklahoma’s game plan was the be as physical as possible with Culver, even when he was running up the court. At least three instances saw Oklahoma players try to ‘draw contact’ from Culver on routine end changes during the game. One of those resulted in an offensive foul called against Culver, one resulted in a bizarre technical when Austin Reaves initiated contact around mid-court and the other was a no-call.
Sherman and Briges each finished with 19 for WVU. Umoja Gibson led Oklahoma with 29 including eight made three pointers.
West Virginia returns to action Monday against Oklahoma State. That game tips off at 9PM ET and will be broadcast on ESPN2.