Big Monday’s matchup between West Virginia and Oklahoma in Norman was a dream pairing in primetime on ESPN. West Virginia’s uptempo defense and the cagy Jevon Carter squaring off against the nationally hyped Trae Young and the Sooners potent transition offense in their second regular-season meeting.
After the Mountaineers humbled Young in Morgantown in early January, the second chapter in a unique clash of styles was must-watch TV on Monday night. So marquee that legendary Oklahoma supporter, good ol’ Jim Ross, was in attendance for a basketball game on a night he made famous for Monday Night Raw.
is that Jim Ross in the back? pic.twitter.com/r7rPpIflA0
— walsh (@theryanwalsh) February 6, 2018
On the big stage, Trae Young delivered his typically strong offensive output scoring 32 points, three more than the 29 he put up in the 89-76 loss in Morgantown.
Young’s 32 points weren’t enough to keep the likely National Player of the Year from being overshadowed by the Mountaineers for a second time this season. This time by an unlikely culprit as a Spike Albrecht-esque first-half shooting performance from LaMont West put West Virginia in control and the Mountaineers never looked back from that point forward.
West – a Junior forward who is shooting 32% from behind the arc this season – opened up the game with 5/5 3PT shooting. A personal 15-2 run that was the turning point in a first half where West Virginia opened up a 50-40 halftime lead.
— Basketball Society (@BBallSociety_) February 6, 2018
West’s scoring would grind to a halt after missing his sixth three-point attempt. Still, his run of heat checks was the catalyst in an important win to keep the Mountaineers Big 12 conference title hopes alive.
And your #HailWV leading scorer on #BigMonday was Lamont West who had 17, with a scorching 5-of-5 start from the 3-point line in the first half #WVUvsOU #Big12MBB @Heartland_CS pic.twitter.com/uOBxvAkI4v
— Matthew Postins (@PostinsPostcard) February 6, 2018
After West’s deluge, the Sooners would do well to get back into the game in the second half. Riding Young’s scoring – and one highlight reel layup for the ages – Oklahoma inched the ten-point halftime lead down to the final play of the game.
TRAE YOUNG 🍇🍇🍇 GAME CRAZY
— SLAM Magazine (@SLAMonline) February 6, 2018
With the game on the line, West Virginia’s vaunted defense dug deep for one last well-executed defensive possession against the nation’s top scorer. Stepping up to challenge Young in the lane, the Mountaineers help defense and the active hands of Jevon Carter forced a pass from Young.
With the ball out of Young’s hands, West Virginia’s bigs then did their job and challenged a desperation heave from under the basket from Oklahoma to seal the game-winning stop. Heartbreak for Oklahoma, who failed to overcome Press Virginia in a convincing sweep for head coach Bob Huggins and his defense Young’s historic scoring talents.
Huggins’ press defense schemes and gameplan didn’t completely stifle Young over two games where he scored at his 29.8 average. However, the press defense created enough opportunities for West Virginia to find a way to outgun Young and the Sooners. And when West Virginia needed a stop, the defense was able to make Young uncomfortable in the most crucial stage of the game to finish the job.
With the sweep over the Sooners, West Virginia has turned the chase for the Big 12 regular season conference title into a three-team affair. At 7-4 in conference play and in possession of the tiebreaker over Oklahoma, the Big 12 is now officially a fight between the Mountaineers, the streaking Texas Tech Red Raiders and perennial conference champion Kansas.
The Mountaineers conference title hopes don’t stay alive on Monday night in Norman without the sudden shooting heroics of LaMont West and his 5/5 first half explosion that outshined Young’s march to a historical season.
Regular season college hoops moments tend to be lost in the annals of time compared to their March Madness counterparts. An understandable reality due to the sheer amounts of games and moments that come out of those games on a nightly basis.
LaMont West’s night should be one of the regular season moments we try to keep in our memories down the road. If West Virginia can build on tonight’s win and the Mountaineers become the team to finally knock off the Jayhawks in the Big 12, West’s night will live forever in Morgantown as one of the key performances in what could end up to be a special season for a dangerous team.