NORMAN- Finally, the Oklahoma Sooners have a signature win.
Topping the West Virginia Mountaineers 69-59, the Sooners clinched their first victory over a ranked opponent.
“It’s a huge win,” senior forward Kristian Doolittle said after the game.
“They’re a highly ranked team coming in.”
Senior forward Kristian Doolittle scored in double figures for the first time in five games, pacing all scorers with 27.
“It’s a lot more fun when you’re making shots,” Doolittle said.
“I felt like I was in my head the past few games, but the confidence that the coaching staff and my teammates instilled in me, I was able to come out here with a fresh mind.”
Despite the scoring struggles, Doolittle has still led the Sooners in rebounding, which they leaned on against the Mountaineers. Doolittle pulled down 12 rebounds against West Virginia’s huge front court.
“They’re the most physical and unique club in the country in terms of those two big guys on the block,” Oklahoma coach Lon Kruger said.
“I thought Brady [Manek] and [Doolittle] did a great job early.”
As the Sooners adjusted to the size and physicality of the Mountaineers, Doolittle kept Oklahoma in the game. Doolittle scored 12 of Oklahoma’s first 22 points, while teammates struggled to get going.
“Whenever we can get [Doolittle] going that’s good for our team, that lead the way for the rest of our team and carried us today,” Jamal Bieniemy said.
Key contributions by Jamal Bieniemy and De’Vion Harmon helped push Oklahoma’s lead.
Bieniemy built on his strong performance against Texas Tech with another good all-around showing, adding nine points, six rebounds and four assists.
Manek played well when matched up against West Virginia’s 6’10” forward Derek Culver, but he did say the added physicality on defense made things more difficult for him on offense.
“When you’re battling guys and pushing guys that are bigger than you, it tires you out and makes the offensive end even more tiring,” Manek said.
The Sooners dealt with West Virginia’s rebounding threat, out rebounding the Mountaineers 42-41. Entering the game, the Mountaineers were fourth in the country in rebounding margin.
Oklahoma’s low-post defense also helped lead the way. Holding West Virginia to 24-of-76 shooting (32%), the Sooners were often able to effectively rebound and spring the fast break.
West Virginia coach Bob Huggins said he wasn’t pleased with how his team played offensively.
“We missed 22 shots within two feet of the basket,” Huggins said. “That seems impossible.”
Oklahoma will hope their first ranked win can serve as a springboard for the rest of the season, “Any time you beat a ranked team, that’s great from a resume standpoint,” Kruger said.
“Our most important thing … is to just keep getting better.”
The Sooners will close out their two-game homestand against the Iowa State Cyclones on Wednesday night.
In their first meeting, the Cyclones ran the Sooners off the floor 81-68, dealing Oklahoma their largest loss of the season.
The game will tip-off at 8 p.m. on Wednesday night, and will be broadcast on ESPN2.