Morgantown, WV (SportsNetwork.com) - Guaranteed a finish of fifth place or better in the Big 12 Conference standings, the 20th-ranked West Virginia Mountaineers take the floor at WVU Coliseum against the Oklahoma State Cowboys in the regular-season final on Saturday afternoon.
As promising as the prospects are for the Mountaineers in the postseason, the team hurt itself by losing a pair of critical outings in the last week. First, WVU suffered a 78-66 loss to Baylor on the road a week ago, and then four nights back the squad dropped a 76-69 overtime affair versus league-leading Kansas.
As a result, West Virginia is now 22-8 overall and 10-7 in league play, the latter tying the program with Baylor for fourth place in the standings heading into the weekend.
As for the Cowboys, their 8-9 conference mark has them tied with Kansas State for the sixth spot in the standings with the conference tournament just around the corner. Three days ago, the squad delivered an 82-70 win over TCU at home, snapping a four-game slide which began with a 70-55 loss to the Horned Frogs on the road on Valentine's Day.
Oklahoma State leads the all-time series, 4-2, although the Mountaineers won the first meeting of the season just a few weeks back, 73-63, on the road.
Thanks to a 7-of-11 effort behind the 3-point line and 55.6 percent accuracy from the floor overall in the second half, the Cowboys managed to take down TCU by double figures after the Horned Frog turned the trick in Fort Worth a few weeks prior. Le'Bryan Nash and Anthony Hickey accounted for 20 points apiece and Phil Forte 13 points off the bench for the hosts as they limited their mistakes to only five turnovers.
After shooting a season-best 11-of-17 (.647) beyond the arc on Wednesday night at Gallagher-Iba Arena, the Cowboys find themselves hitting on 36.4 percent out on the perimeter in conference play. The squad is producing just 63.6 ppg versus the rest of the Big 12, while those foes generate close to the same number (63.3 ppg). Nash (16.5 ppg) and Forte (14.5 ppg) have combined to register close to half the team's scoring output, while Hickey (9.5 ppg) hands out 60 assists in 17 games.
The fact that West Virginia even got the game against the Jayhawks into overtime was rather remarkable when you consider the visitors were playing without Juwan Staten and Gary Browne, both of whom are listed as questionable for the season finale due to injury. The more deflating news is that the Mountaineers led by as many as 18 points in the contest before coming out on the wrong side. Daxter Miles Jr. accounted for 23 points, shooting 5-of-9 behind the 3-point line, followed by Tarik Phillip with 13 points off the bench. Jonathan Holton recorded a double-double with 12 points and a game-high 10 rebounds as the visitors beat Kansas on the glass, 46-34.
If Staten and Browne are unable to take the floor on Saturday, that means the Mountaineers will have to make up for a loss of close to 22 ppg and 91 assists that the duo have registered against the rest of the league. Devin Williams would be the top offensive threat with an average of 11.3 ppg, but really this is a group that relies more on defense than anything else, as it records just under 10 steals per outing.