Th­ese week­end war­riors are mak­ing his­tory

The Oklahoman (Sunday) - - SPORTS -

For the sec­ond straight Satur­day, the Ok­la­homa State bas­ket­ball team vis­ited a daunt­ing venue to take on a tal­ented op­po­nent, and again, the Cow­boys left with a much­needed vic­tory.

OSU de­feated West Vir­ginia 88-85 on Satur­day, giv­ing the Cow­boys two straight road wins against top-20 op­po­nents for the first time in pro­gram his­tory. OSU led for only 36 sec­onds in the sec­ond half, hold­ing the No. 19 Moun­taineers close enough to be able to rally.

Here are three ob­ser­va­tions from the Cow­boys’ vic­tory over the Moun­taineers.

Cow­boys change their course — again

Like last week’s upset of Kansas at Allen Field­house, Satur­day’s vic­tory could be viewed as sea­son-chang­ing for the Cow­boys. How­ever, the Cow­boys fol­lowed their per­for­mance in Lawrence with a home dud against Bay­lor.

But back on the road, OSU com­peted with the Moun­taineers through­out, never trail­ing by more than eight points. Now, the Cow­boys’ re­sume for the NCAA Tour­na­ment in­cludes vic­to­ries against Ok­la­homa, Kansas and West Vir­ginia, all of which have been ranked in the top five of the As­so­ci­ated Press poll at some point this sea­son.

OSU be­came the first team to post vic­to­ries in Allen Field­house and the WVU Coli­seum since the Cow­boys achieved the feat in 2013. The Cow­boys host Kansas State on Wed­nes­day in Gal­lagher-Iba Arena with a chance to win con­sec­u­tive Big 12 games for the first time this sea­son.

At 5-7 in the con­fer­ence with six games re­main­ing, OSU likely needs to win half of its reg­u­lar-sea­son games go­ing for­ward to se­cure it­self on the NCAA Tour­na­ment bub­ble.

Clutch shoot­ing to come back

The Cow­boys trailed by six points with un­der three min­utes to play, but they came back be­hind a flurry of 3-point­ers. OSU made four of its fi­nal five 3-point at­tempts; Lindy Wa­ters buried the go-ahead shot with 17.8 sec­onds to play, fol­low­ing his game-ty­ing 3 with 1:31 to go.

OSU fin­ished 10-for-24 from 3. Per­haps more im­por­tantly, the Cow­boys were much im­proved at the free-throw line. Af­ter a 7-for15 per­for­mance from the line in a loss to Bay­lor, OSU made 30 of its 36 free-throw at­tempts in a game that fea­tured a bevy of fouls.

Sopho­more for­ward Cam McGriff led the way, mak­ing all 13 of his free-throw at­tempts en route to post­ing his sec­ond 20-point per­for­mance in three games. Smith had 20 points, as well, with 13 of them com­ing in the sec­ond half.

Tavar­ius Shine re­turns

Af­ter miss­ing OSU’s past four games, ju­nior Tavar­ius Shine re­turned and played im­pact­ful min­utes off the bench.

Shine, who had a cast on his left wrist as re­cently as Thurs­day, looked rusty on both ends, but he man­aged to con­trib­ute seven points and four re­bounds. OSU outscored West Vir­ginia by 11 points with Shine on the floor, be­hind only Mitchell Solomon (plus-16) for the best plus-mi­nus on the team.

As Shine gets back in rhythm, he should make an im­pact. Shine started 17 of OSU’s first 21 games, and with OSU try­ing to claw its way into the tour­na­ment, an­other piece of Shine’s cal­iber can only help those ef­forts.

[AP PHOTO]

Ok­la­homa State for­ward Cameron McGriff (12), guard Jef­frey Car­roll (30) and for­ward Yankuba Sima (32) cel­e­brate af­ter beat­ing West Vir­ginia 88-85 on Satur­day in Morgantown.

Nruiz@ ok­la­homan.com

Nathan Ruiz

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