Frosh Bolden, Konate Key Road Victory

  • By John Antonik
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  • February 08, 2017 11:54 PM
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Freshman James “Beetle” Bolden scored a career-high 17 points - 15 of those coming in the first half - to lead 13th-ranked West Virginia to a 61-50 victory over struggling Oklahoma tonight at the Lloyd Noble Center in Norman, Oklahoma.
Bolden scored more than half of West Virginia’s first half points, including seven in a row at one point when Oklahoma jumped out to an early 11-2 lead.
“We’re down 11-2 and I thought, let’s get him in there and see if he can make a shot or two and he gets 15 points in the first half,” said West Virginia coach Bob Huggins. “He played really well.”
A Nathan Adrian 3 briefly gave the Mountaineers their first lead of the game, 20-19, a Lamont West 3 gave West Virginia its second lead at 25-23 and then Bolden finished the half with a driving layup ahead of the horn to give WVU a 27-25 advantage.
The second half began like a siege with neither team able to get any points until Tarik Phillip finally ended the drought with a short jumper in the lane after  nearly four minutes came off the clock.
West Virginia began to take control of the game at the midway point of the second half. Bolden hit two free throws - his only two points of the second half, Adrian followed with a drive to the basket and Esa Ahmad added a jumper to give the Mountaineers an eight-point advantage.
The lead swelled to 10 after another Adrian layup and grew to 13 when Jevon Carter got a 3 to go down with 6:40 remaining.
OU answered with a five-point play. Jordan Shephard made a 3 and West Virginia’s Sagaba Konate was called for a foul away from the ball, sending Khadeem Lattin to the line, where he made both free throws.
But from there, Oklahoma could only manage to reduce its deficit to six twice for the remainder of the game.
“I thought that’s the best we’ve guarded all year,” Huggins said. “We did a better job guarding the ball and we did a better job with ball pressure. We just did a much, much better job at the defensive end.”
While Bolden gave West Virginia a big offensive lift in the first half, Konate was the difference in the second half on the defensive end.
The freshman swatted away a season-high five shots and also grabbed four rebounds and scored two points on a pair of late free throws.
“Sags coming in was really good guarding the basket,” said Huggins.
Oklahoma, which scored 48 points in the paint in the overtime victory in Morgantown back on January 18, only scored 18 tonight close to the basket, mainly because of Konate’s presence.
West Virginia also did a terrific job on Oklahoma senior guard Jordan Woodard, who scored 20 including the game-winning shot in Morgantown. Tonight, his stat line included two-of-11 from the field, zero-for-five from 3, six points, five turnovers and two fouls.
“We did what we were supposed to do in Morgantown, we wore him down,” Huggins said. “I thought JC (Jevon Carter) did a really good job, Beetle came in and had him for a while, Tarik had him for a while. It’s hard to fight that pressure the whole game and it’s hard to work to get the ball across the time line. We were trying to make him work and instead of running and doubling him and getting the ball out of his hands like we did in Morgantown, (tonight) we tried to keep him from passing the ball forward to somebody else.”
The only Sooner player to reach double figures was guard Kameron McGusty with 11. Oklahoma turned the ball over 23 times and shot just 33 percent for the game.
The Mountaineers didn’t shoot it well either, hitting 20 of 54 for 37 percent. At the end of the first half, Bolden made six of 10 while the rest of the team was only four of 19.
“We struggled on offense,” Huggins admitted. “We didn’t do a good job of finding open guys. You don’t get guys open often but when they are you’ve got to give them the ball and that’s why I told Nate to stay in the high post. I’d like to have him down there so he can score it, too, but the nice thing about him is he’s so unselfish.”
Adrian chipped in with 13 points while grabbing a team-high seven rebounds.

Forward Nathan Adrian contributed 13 points and seven rebounds in tonight's 61-50 victory. Oklahoma Athletics photo.
West Virginia (19-5, 7-4) played tonight’s game without starting guard Daxter Miles Jr., who did not make the trip after suffering an ankle injury during practice this week. The announcement of his status was made shortly before tipoff.
The victory tonight, before a crowd estimated at less than 5,000, was West Virginia’s first-ever in Norman.
The Sooners drop to 8-15, 2-9 and remain at the bottom of the Big 12 standings.
West Virginia assumes sole possession of third place in the conference standings with a big game coming up on Saturday afternoon at the Coliseum against Kansas State, which defeated the Mountaineers, 79-75, in Manhattan back on January 21,
The Wildcats are now 16-8, 5-6, following Monday night’s narrow loss to Kansas.
“We’ve got to get ready to play on Saturday - Saturday is a huge game for us,” Huggins noted.
The contest will tip off at noon and will be televised nationally on ESPN.

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