Oklahoma tries to stave off West Virginia

The Oklahoma Sooners are one of the favorites to win the National Championship in men’s basketball this season. Oklahoma comes in with a veteran group led by Buddy Heild, and certainly could be seen as the Big 12 favorite coming into the winter.

Ranked No. 2 in the country, the Sooners face a huge test on Saturday afternoon in Norman, Okla., against the No. 11 West Virginia Mountaineers. Oklahoma has only lost once this season, falling against the No. 1 Kansas Jayhawks at James Neismith Arena in triple overtime. It was one of the great games in recent college basketball history, and it might be a Final Four preview.

Now, the Sooners face a team that is 15-1 and undefeated within the conference. Led by head coach Bob Huggins, the Mountaineers are out for another statement win. On Tuesday, West Virginia hosted the top-ranked Jayhawks and won 74-63, showcasing a quality defense and opportunistic offense.

Jaysean Paige led the way with 26 points, and he’ll be one of the main focuses of Oklahoma when the two teams square off. Paige is one of the most experienced players in college basketball and gives West Virginia punch off the bench, averaging 13.4 points and 3.8 rebounds per game. Of course, forward Devin Williams is the best player on the team, showcasing a force on the inside. Williams knocked down 17 points and grabbed 12 rebounds against Kansas, and he’ll be key against the Sooners.

Since losing to the Jayhawks, the Sooners have been able to rack up a pair of wins against the Oklahoma State Cowboys and Kansas State Wildcats. At 14-1 and 3-1 in the conference, Oklahoma faces a crucial game in January. The Sooners must win this game to drive home that they can beat the best of the best, and not just beat up on the mediocre teams while faltering when the lights are brightest.

For Oklahoma to become a major player in March, Heild is the main cog. Heild is having an amazing season, averaging 26.6 points per game and 5.7 rebounds, while shooting better than 51 percent from beyond the 3-point line. Heild has plenty of help, though, with three other players averaging in the double-digits. Ryan Spangler gives the Sooners a nice interior presence, averaging a double-double with 11.2 point and 10.3 rebounds per game.

In the final analysis, both West Virginia and Oklahoma are going to be fighting for the upper hand in the conference, hoping to earn a signature win. While neither will be thinking about this game come March, it could certainly give one the mental edge heading into the conference tournament in a little more than a month from now.

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