No. 12 Oklahoma, No. 15 West Virginia meet again

NORMAN, Okla. — When Oklahoma and West Virginia last met, the two teams were riding high, with the Big 12 lead on the line Jan. 6 in Morgantown, W.Va.

Just less than a month later, the teams enter Monday’s second meeting scuffling but still in a position to maintain relevance in this year’s conference race.

No. 15 West Virginia, an 89-76 winner in the first matchup, has dropped five of its last seven games but is coming off an 89-51 home blowout win over Kansas State.

No. 12 Oklahoma has dropped four of its last six games,

While West Virginia has dropped two home games during that span, falling to Kansas and Kentucky at WVU Coliseum, Oklahoma’s struggles have been to this point solely relegated to the road.

The Sooners have dropped five consecutive road games since opening Big 12 play with a win at then-undefeated TCU on Dec. 30.

But Oklahoma has won 14 consecutive games at Lloyd Noble Center stretching almost an entire calendar year. The Sooners haven’t lost at home since last Feb. 8, when the Mountaineers knocked them off.

“It’s such a grind,” Sooners coach Lon Kruger said of the Big 12 schedule. “Every night out, it’s amazing how many games swing in the last 30 seconds. That’s the nature of the league and it’s exciting.”

After Saturday’s loss at Texas, Kruger said he needed to give freshman guard Trae Young a break after Young played all 40 minutes for the second time in a regulation game this season.

Young had 19 points and 14 assists against the Longhorns but was just 7 of 22 from the field and 2 of 14 from behind the 3-point line.

In Young’s last three home games, he is averaging 37.7 points, 8.3 assists and 6.3 rebounds, shooting 58.9 percent from the field and 56.3 percent from behind the arc.

West Virginia has had to deal with several of its players coming down with the flu, including starter Daxter Miles Jr. and his replacement in the starting lineup Saturday, James Bolden. Mountaineers coach Bob Huggins said Bolden joined Friday’s practice “straight out of the hospital.”

Miles, though, played 25 minutes in the win over Kansas State and Bolden finished with 13 points.

But even with Saturday’s blowout win, Huggins said the effects of the illness could carry over.

“I’m worried about having energy on Monday,” Huggins said.

The illness also changed the way West Virginia played defense, as Huggins decided to go away from the Mountaineers’ signature press for much of the game.

Huggins said he expected Sunday’s long practice in preparation for the game against the Sooners to feature mostly studying rather than on-court work.

“When you’ve got guys that are laying there getting IVs to try and get them back moving, it’s a concern,” Huggins said.

The Sooners haven’t been able to avoid the flu, either, though so far it has only forced Christian James out of the lineup for a game. James missed last week’s win over Baylor before returning to the lineup for Saturday’s loss at Texas.