MORGANTOWN — Pauly Paulicap sort of leaned back and took in a breath when it’s mentioned that West Virginia is trying to end a three-game losing streak to the best teams in the Big 12.
After having battled the likes of Kansas, Baylor and Texas Tech, Paulicap’s wish moving forward was simple:
“I need to get bigger,” the WVU forward said, tongue in cheek.
Short of Paulicap growing into a 7-footer overnight, the Mountaineers (13-5, 2-4 Big 12), are still searching for answers on how to compete against the top teams in the Big 12.
In all three losses, WVU trailed at the half, but by no more than four points. The efforts in the second half is where those teams were able to pull away.
“I think we need to work on communicating with each other better,” Paulicap continued. “We kind of need to develop better team chemistry and be able to play through adversity. We may not feel like things are in our favor, but we’ve got to stick to what we can do, play what we practiced and try to see it through.”
The next challenge comes today against Oklahoma (12-7, 2-5), which began the season 11-2 under first-year head coach Porter Moser, but now finds itself struggling against the upper echelon of Big 12 competition and is on its own four-game losing skid.
“They’re really good and (Moser) has done a great job with them,” WVU head coach Bob Huggins said. “They’ve been in games. They had a chance to beat Kansas. They had a chance to beat Baylor. Actually, they led both of them late in the game.”
What the Sooners will throw at West Virginia is an experienced starting lineup, one that consists of four seniors and one junior.
Tanner Groves is a 6-10 senior transfer from Eastern Washington who has come in to lead the team in scoring at 12.7 points per game, while also stepping out to hit 21 3-pointers on the season.
Huggins said the Sooners are a mixture of perimeter shots mixed in with fundamental passing and drives to the basket.
“They do great things,” Huggins said. “They’re great at back-cutting you. If you start watching the ball, they back-cut you. They do a great job of opening up driving lanes so they can get it to the rim. I really like their team.”
None of that takes priority over the Mountaineers’ own miscues in recent weeks.
WVU, while fixing its woes from the free-throw line, is still dealing with bad passes leading to crucial turnovers and being on the short end of too many rebounding battles.
The Mountaineers are also ninth in the Big 12 in 3-pointers made per game and last in team field-goal shooting percentage.
“We threw one at Texas Tech that hit our guy in the shoulder, hit one of their guys, the ball bounced up into the air and we got it back,” Huggins said. “The guy he hit, he wasn’t throwing it to him. That part of it has really been a challenge.”
While neither team is ranked, both are in the top 50 of the NCAA NET rankings, used to determine at-large teams and seeding for the NCAA tournament, so the opportunity to end a losing streak here looms large for both schools.
“They don’t seem a whole lot different,” Huggins said of his players. “We’ve got things we’ve got to fix. I know that.”
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