No. 17 Oklahoma State Upsets No. 6 WVU as Cade Cunningham Sits with Injury

Adam Wells@adamwells1985Featured ColumnistMarch 6, 2021

Oklahoma State guard Avery Anderson III (0) is defended by West Virginia guard Taz Sherman (12) during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game Saturday, March 6, 2021, in Morgantown, W.Va. (AP Photo/Kathleen Batten)
Kathy Batten/Associated Press

The No. 17 Oklahoma State Cowboys wrapped up the regular season in spectacular fashion with an 85-80 victory over No. 6 West Virginia in a Big 12 showdown.

Oklahoma State had a brutal closing stretch with five straight games against opponents ranked in the Associated Press Top 20, including Saturday's tilt. It won four of those contests, with the lone defeat coming against No. 3 Baylor.

The Cowboys looked to be at a disadvantage against West Virginia when freshman sensation Cade Cunningham was ruled out with an ankle injury. But head coach Mike Boynton Jr. rallied his team against a conference rival heading into the Big 12 tournament.

Avery Anderson III and Matthew-Alexander Moncrieffe combined to score 49 points, and Kalib Boone contributed 12 points on 5-of-6 shooting. Keylan Boone scored 11 points off the bench.


Notable Game Stats

  • Avery Anderson III, OK State: 31 points (11-of-14 FG), 6 rebounds
  • Matthew-Alexander Moncrieffe, OK State: 18 points (7-of-10 FG)
  • Kalib Boone, OK State: 12 points (5-of-6 FG), 4 rebounds, 2 blocks
  • Taz Sherman, WVU: 20 points (7-of-15 FG), 3 steals
  • Derek Culver, WVU: 14 points (3-of-6 FG, 8-of-12 FT), 5 rebounds, 2 steals
  • Miles McBride, WVU: 12 points (4-of-9 FG), 4 assists, 3 steals


Anderson, Moncrieffe Shine for Cowboys in Cunningham's Absence

Oklahoma State isn't an offensive juggernaut, so being without its leading scorer against a quality opponent seemed like a daunting task.

But Cunningham's absence opened the door for Anderson to have the best game of his career.

OSU Cowboy Basketball @OSUMBB

.@RondelWalker with an absolute DIME after the steal and @averyanderson3_ finishes with ease to start the half in style 🤩 #NewEra | #GoPokes https://t.co/7usTnVCQsn

Zachary Lancaster @zlancaster91

Avery Anderson III just surpassed a career-high in points as he's sitting with 18 points with just under eight minutes left in the game. He scored 17 against Texas Tech earlier this season. #OkState

Moncrieffe also leveled up to make up for the absence of Cunningham. The freshman from Toronto scored just six points in an 81-70 loss against Baylor on Thursday. He rebounded by shooting 7-of-10 to have one of his best games of the season.

He entered Saturday averaging nine points per game. He passed that mark less than two minutes into the second half.

Moncrieffe also used his skills to help set up teammates:

OSU Cowboy Basketball @OSUMBB

A problem in the paint 😈 @KoumaBernard1 goes up strong off the dime from @MA_Moncrieffe #NewEra | #GoPokes https://t.co/nougo2KHpT

Neither team ever pulled away, but West Virginia did appear to figure things out early in the second half when Miles McBride created a turnover and scored an easy layup for a 48-43 lead.

Oklahoma State responded by scoring nine straight points as Moncrieffe and Anderson accounted for seven during that run.

Anderson also made the biggest shot of the game with 34 seconds remaining to put the Cowboys up 82-78.

There were four lead changes and four ties in the final 5:25.

Bernard Kouma made one of the biggest plays of the game with less than three minutes remaining. Keylan Boone air-balled a three-point attempt, but Kouma gathered it and hit a contested layup to put Oklahoma State up 76-73.

Oklahoma State's .720 winning percentage (18-7) in the regular season is its best since it finished the 2012-13 season with a .727 mark (24-9).


Poor Shooting, Defense Cost Mountaineers

The hallmark of a Huggins-coached team is tough, opportunistic defense to create easy chances for the offense.

The West Virginia trap did succeed in getting turnovers, producing a 20-12 advantage Saturday, including 11-2 in the first half (9-0 in steals). That unit showed up late in the second half when Derek Culver stole the ball from Bryce Williams to give the Mountaineers possession when they were trailing 78-76.

But after a timeout, Taz Sherman's three-pointer hit off the front of the rim.

The defense had no answer for the Cowboys when they got close to the basket. Oklahoma State shot 57.9 percent from the field, including 29-of-43 (67.4 percent) on two-pointers.

That was emblematic of what went wrong for the Mountaineers. Their offense struggled mightily when it didn't get to the free-throw line, as they made just 41.7 percent of their field-goal attempts and finished 5-of-24 from three-point range.

Neither team shot the ball well from behind the arc—Oklahoma State made only four of its 14 attempts. But West Virginia's inability to make more than one of its 13 three-pointers in the second half proved to be its undoing.

The Mountaineers missed each of their last six treys after Sean McNeil hit one with 9:28 remaining.

West Virginia kept it close because of those turnovers and because it got to the free-throw line 34 times (it made 25).

Unless Huggins gets his defense to tighten things up moving forward, the Mountaineers are going to have short runs in the Big 12 and NCAA tournaments.


What's Next?

Both teams will travel to Kansas City, Missouri, for the Big 12 tournament, which starts Wednesday.