By Bob Hertzel
Times West Virginian
Eron Harris outplayed Marcus Smart and turned in what may have been his best performance as a Mountaineer but he couldn’t get enough help in a game whose rhythm was destroyed by endless whistles as No. 11 Oklahoma State won a second close decision over West Virginia University, 81-75, Saturday in Stillwater, Okla.
Six players, including both Harris and Smart, fouled out in a game in which 56 fouls were called and 66 free throws were taken.
Harris scored 21 points in 21 minutes before fouling out on a questionable call while Smart, who entered the game as the Big 12s leading scorer, managed to hit just one of seven shots and finished with five points before he fouled out.
Smart did not take well to the physical way he was treated by West Virginia or the way the game was officiated. He spent much of the day fuming on the sidelines, kicking chairs, even once taking his All-American presence from the court in a fit of anger and retreating to the locker room.
Bob Huggins said the approach was physical “because he creates a lot of contact.” He had scored 22 points with 13 rebounds in the Coliseum.
“He’s supposed to be this big thing, but he’s a human being just like me, so whatever,” Huggins said.
“(Smart) likes to be physical, so you have to be physical back,” point guard Juwan Staten, who played Smart head on, said. “You try to get in his head a little bit, try to get him to commit some fouls he doesn’t want to commit, try to get him in foul trouble. That’s what we did.
“We knew that if we could get him in foul trouble and slow him down that we’d have a pretty good chance of winning this game.”
Le’Bryan Nash, whom Huggins cautioned before the game could present a major problem, lived up to that billing as he made up for Smart’s off day and then some by scoring 29 points while pulling down nine rebounds.
“He got the ball where he was really good at,” Huggins said of Nash after the game. “I told those guys for two days and again at halftime if he catches it at 10 or 12 feet he’s going to beat you. If you back off him he’s going to shoot it in and if you get up on him he’s going to drive by you. We had to get him out higher.
“We were going to run people off (Brian) Williams, then he starts making shots and goes four for five. A lot of ways (center Kamari) Murphy getting in foul trouble hurt us, because that’s the guy you can help off of.”
Huggins was admittedly unhappy with the officiating, but so were the Oklahoma State people.
The Mountaineers, who fell to 11-9 and 3-4 in Big 12 play with the loss, got off to a good start and led through most of the first half but an inability to control the boards and a few other mistakes led to a 10-0 run just before halftime to allow OSU to go out with a 42-35 halftime advantage.
Walk-on Tyrone Hughes made his first non-garbage time appearance during the time OSU went on that 10-0 outburst due to the foul trouble the Mountaineers were experiencing.
WVU had problems on the boards and wound up being outrebounded, 41-36, for the game. At a time when they were trying to draw even with the clock running down the Cowboys pulled down three successive offensive rebounds.
“We didn’t rebound the ball in the 1-3-1. They missed shots and we didn’t rebound it. That being said, we had a chance to tie the game with an open look and it didn’t go down,” Huggins said. “If we’re going to win games like this, those have to go down.
“We also gave up 17 points on out of bounds plays,” Huggins continued. “It was just stupid stuff. Sometimes we didn’t switch when we were supposed to switch.”
Another major problem was that Terry Henderson did not build on his career-high 28-point performance in WVU’s last game.
He finished with just one field goal after making 10-of-13 against Texas Tech, including 5-of-6 3-point shots. Against Oklahoma State he made but 1-of-10 shots and missed all five 3-point shots he attempted.
Still, with all that, as the game went down to the final couple of minutes, WVU had a chance to pull it out but just didn’t have enough firepower to get the job done.
Follow Bob Hertzel on Twitter @bhertzel.