By MATT THORNSBURY Associated Press
MORGANTOWN, W.Va. (AP) — Kristian Doolittle and Oklahoma are giving the NCAA Tournament selection committee a good reason to pencil them into the bracket.
Doolittle scored 19 points two days after surgery to repair a broken nose and Oklahoma boosted its tournament hopes with a 73-62 victory over No. 20 West Virginia on Saturday.
The Sooners have won two straight heading into the final week of the regular season with games left against Texas and TCU before the league tournament.
“How you finish will determine who goes and who doesn’t,” Kruger said. “So that’s a good start on those four.”
Doolittle played in his third game wearing a mask since breaking his nose against Oklahoma State on Feb. 22.
He underwent surgery Thursday and didn’t slow down against the Mountaineers, going 7 of 13 from the floor and matching a team high with seven rebounds.
“We didn’t know how he was going to feel going in,” Kruger said. “He was great.”
Oklahoma (18-11, 8-8 Big 12) built a 21-point lead in the second half and cruised from there to complete a regular-season sweep of the reeling Mountaineers (19-10, 7-9).
Brady Manek added 15 points, Austin Reaves had 13 and Jamal Bieniemy 11 points for the Sooners. They broke a six-game road losing streak.
“I think right now our guys are feeling good about what they’re doing,” Kruger said.
Miles McBride came off the bench to score 13 points for West Virginia, and Oscar Tshiebwe had nine points and 10 rebounds. The Mountaineers have lost three straight and six of seven.
West Virginia went scoreless over the final 5:43 of the first half and trailed 25-21 at the break.
Doolittle scored 14 points in the second half, making a free throw to give the Sooners their largest lead, 59-38, with 7:08 remaining.
Reaves said based on Doolittle’s play, he might want to “keep wearing the mask his entire life.”
“You can’t guard him,” Reaves said. “He’s just got that versatility and he’s big. So yeah, he’s a problem.”
West Virginia came alive with a 13-2 run but got no closer than eight points the rest of the game.
West Virginia retired Rod Thorn’s No. 44 during a halftime ceremony. He’s the third player to have his number retired at West Virginia. Thorn was the last player to wear No. 44 during his career from 1961-63. Jerry West, who played at West Virginia before Thorn, had his No. 44 retired in 2005. Hot Rod Hundley’s No. 33 was retired in 2010.
Oklahoma: The Sooners shot 62% from the floor after halftime and now have two straight quality wins that could help get them into the NCAA Tournament. Oklahoma also beat No. 22 Texas Tech 65-61 on Tuesday.
West Virginia: Once a projected high seed in the NCAA Tournament, the Mountaineers have faded fast and need every win they can get to make one last impression on the tournament selection committee. West Virginia had another poor shooting effort, going 34% from the floor, 16% from 3-point range and 53% at the free-throw line.
“You would hope that we have enough fight to us to bounce back,” West Virginia coach Bob Huggins said. “Most of the time guys, at least my guys when they go on a losing streak, they come out ready to fight.”
West Virginia will fall out of the AP Top 25 after an 0-2 week.
Oklahoma hosts Texas on Tuesday night. The Sooners beat the Longhorns 72-62 on Jan. 8 in Austin, Texas.
West Virginia plays at Iowa State on Tuesday night. The Mountaineers won the earlier meeting 76-61.
More AP college basketball: https://apnews.com/Collegebasketball and https://twitter.com/AP_Top25
By MATT THORNSBURY Associated Press