MORGANTOWN, W.Va. (AP) — West Virginia coach Bob Huggins had a better time being around North Carolina great Dean Smith than talking about tying him on the career wins list.
The 17th-ranked Mountaineers took over early in the second half to beat Oklahoma State 65-47 Tuesday night, giving Huggins his 879th victory to match Smith for sixth all-time among Division I coaches.
“I got to spend a lot of time with him,” Huggins said. “Quality guy, class guy, fun guy. I just watched him from afar, a fun guy to be around.
“I don’t pay attention. Those are my friends, what do I care?”
Huggins certainly cares about putting wins together, especially after a recent three-game slide that was stopped by Tuesday’s second-half dominance.
“I promised the state of West Virginia that we were going to get it going again,” Huggins said. “We’re going to be in the NCAA Tournament. We’re going to be a good team. That’s more important to me.”
Cutting down on turnovers was a big reason West Virginia (19-7, 7-6 Big 12) halted the skid, which included losses last week to top-ranked Baylor and No. 3 Kansas.
“We had three losses in a row. That’s unusual, especially for us,” guard Taz Sherman said. “I feel like we’re a good enough team to not go on slumps like that, offensively and defensively.”
The Mountaineers fell behind by 10 early but got back on track with tough defense. Oklahoma State shot 17% (5 of 30) from the floor after halftime and was held to 14 points, the fewest allowed by West Virginia this season.
Sean McNeil made three free throws after getting fouled on a 3-pointer. That capped a 20-4 run to start the second half and gave the Mountaineers a 48-37 lead with 8:42 remaining.
“Obviously, it was a tale of two halves in many ways for our team,” Oklahoma State coach Mike Boynton said. “West Virginia played better than us for 20 minutes for sure, maybe even the last four minutes of the first half, being perfectly honest.”
McNeil and Miles McBride scored 11 points apiece for the Mountaineers. McBride was making his first start. Oscar Tshiebwe had 15 rebounds, Derek Culver pulled down 10 off the bench and West Virginia outrebounded Oklahoma State 42-29.
West Virginia’s comeback actually started with the final shot of the first half. Jermaine Haley hit a 3-pointer from the corner on an inbounds pass as time expired. That trimmed the Mountaineers’ deficit to 33-28, and they maintained the momentum the rest of the way.
Cameron McGriff scored 19 points for Oklahoma State (13-13, 3-10), which won its previous two games.