CLEVELAND (WVU Athletics) -- West Virginia's game plan today was to get Ohio State's outside shooters moving. The Mountaineers got them moving all right – on a bus right back to Columbus!
Cincinnati native Miles McBride came off the bench to score a season-high 21 points to lead No. 22-ranked West Virginia to a 67-59 victory over the No. 2-ranked Buckeyes.
"That's what he did for us down in Cancun," West Virginia coach Bob Huggins said. "We were struggling to score, and we weren't sure what we were going to do inside. I thought maybe we could just flatten them out and let him play."
Defensively, Huggins' strategy was to keep Ohio State's shooters from taking step-in jump shots. The Buckeyes came into today's game shooting nearly 50 percent from the floor, mostly because they were getting wide-open looks.
Today, they didn't get as many.
"We just tried to make them make tough shots, and that's what we did," McBride said.
"Coach Huggins emphasized to us that they make 72 percent of their step-in shots, so our biggest emphasis was no step-in shots today," added forward Gabe Osabuohien. "Early, they got step-in shots from 3, which is why they got a lead. But in the second half, he emphasized 'no more step-in shots' and that's when we began to grow our lead."
It was McBride who made the game's biggest shot with 1:14 remaining and the shot clock winding down to zero. The freshman guard somehow managed to push-up a one-handed heave just inside the 3-point line to give West Virginia a 59-54 lead.
"I went to my regular pull-up and (OSU's) Kaleb (Wesson) jumped it," he explained. "I stepped through and put it up there."
Ohio State's Andre Wesson came down the floor and threw a wild pass into the stands trying to feed the basketball to his brother, Kaleb, along the base line.
Following a 30-second time out, Huggins put sophomore guard Jordan McCabe back into the game and he was immediately fouled by Duane Washington Jr. with 58 seconds left.
McCabe was the right guy for West Virginia to have on the floor considering the rest of the team was just 11-of-21 from the line. McCabe made both, and got two more to go down as West Virginia outscored the Buckeyes 14-5 over the game's final three minutes.
Senior Chase Harler also gave the Mountaineers a big boost off the bench with 10 points, including a pair of 3s from the corner.
Harler's breakaway basket with 12 seconds left put the game on ice.
"Chase played really, really well," Huggins said. "You can hardly measure what he brings to us. He did a great job of coaching them on the floor and he may be our best on-the-ball defender. I've been elated with what he's giving us."
Ohio State, which owns victories this year over college basketball blue bloods Villanova, Kentucky and North Carolina and defeated its three ranked opponents by an average of 18.7 points per game, experienced its worst shooting performance of the season. OSU shot just 31.3 percent overall and 33.3 percent from 3-point distance for the game.
The Buckeyes did most of their damage from the free throw line where they made 21-of-29 as a result of West Virginia bigs Oscar Tshiebwe and Derek Culver getting into early foul trouble.
Tshiebwe drew his fourth foul on West Virginia's first possession of the second half, forcing Huggins to go deep into his bench with Osabuohien and senior Logan Routt.
"When we got into early foul trouble, we began to play tentative and we can't play tentative," Huggins said. "In the second half, that's as well as we've played defensively all year."
For most of the second half, Huggins used Culver mostly on offense and kept Osabuohien and Routt on the defensive end of the floor to try and slow down Ohio State's leading scorer Kaleb Wesson, averaging nearly 14 points per game.
Wesson got a team-high 17 points, but converted just 3-of-11 from the floor.
"In practice all week, we focused on trying to guard Wesson and our bigs were ready," Osabuohien said. "We stopped him early and we just stuck to the game plan and it worked for us."
Washington Jr. added 12 for the Buckeyes, now 11-2 following today's loss.
Ohio State led by as many as nine with 1:02 left in the first half following a Luther Muhammad 3, but guard Sean McNeil answered with a bomb with 22 seconds left.
The Buckeyes led by seven with 18:25 remaining but West Virginia whittled it down to four on an Osabuohien runner in the paint. McBride followed with a 3 and another McBride jumper gave West Virginia a 41-40 lead with 13:28 to go.
The two teams traded baskets until a Harler 3 and a Jermaine Haley traditional three-point play gave WVU a five-point advantage with 8:38 left.
Ohio State eventually reclaimed the lead with 4:40 remaining on a Andre Wesson trey from the top of the key.
West Virginia (11-1) won today's game despite being out-rebounded by seven and missing 10 free throws.
It was a particularly meaningful victory for Ohio natives McBride and Culver, neither of whom were recruited by Ohio State.
"I grew up watching Ohio State and everybody knows Ohio State and it was fun playing on the other side," McBride said.
"This means a lot to me, honestly," Culver, who grabbed a team-high nine rebounds, added. "Me, not even really being recruited by Ohio State and coming in here and doing that to them, where they were ranked … that feels good."
Today's victory was West Virginia's eighth in its last nine meetings against the Buckeyes, including the last three times under Huggins when Ohio State was nationally ranked.
The win this afternoon was also the Mountaineers' 10th in school history against the nation's No. 1- or No. 2-ranked team.
Today's game was the first of two here at Rocket Mortgage Fieldhouse as part of the Cleveland Classic. Duquesne and Marshall are playing the nightcap.
An announced crowd of 16,781 attended the first game.
West Virginia has another stern test coming up next Saturday at fifth-ranked Kansas in the Big 12 opener. A game time has yet to be established, but it will be televised on the Big 12 Now on ESPN+.