Marvin Johnson didn't give up.
The Oklahoma men's basketball team only trailed for two minutes and change throughout its 72-62 road win over West Virginia on Wednesday, but the Mountaineers didn't go down quietly.
After trailing by as many as 14 points in the second half, West Virginia trimmed the deficit to 67-61 with 2:22 left in the game thanks to a pair of free throws by Sean McNeil.
Now down 68-61 with 1:39 left, Taz Sherman blew past Johnson on his way to the rim for what looked to be an easy dunk.
Johnson had other plans, though.
The redshirt senior guard stuck with the play and blocked Sherman's one-handed dunk attempt from behind, which ended all hopes of a West Virginia comeback. OU (13-7, 3-5 Big 12) snapped a four-game losing streak.
"You credit the whole group," OU head coach Porter Moser said. "It was strength in numbers with the belief. We had strength in numbers... That win is going to be there on our sheet. We’re going to build off it."
Tanner Groves finished with game-highs of 21 points and six boards. Umoja Gibson also tallied 12 points and a season-high five steals.
Here are three takeaways from the contest:
Moser goes with bigger starting five
Jacob Groves got his wish.
The junior forward was a rare bright spot during OU's 66-52 loss to then-No. 21 Texas on Jan. 11. Jacob tallied 10 points and six rebounds in a season-high 22 minutes off the bench, and he explained the reason for his strong play during a press conference later that week.
"The more minutes I get, the more comfortable I get in the game," Jacob said on Jan. 14. "I can kind of get into the swing of things and find a little routine and get comfortable. That's when I really start to produce."
Jacob got his best chance yet to produce on Wednesday.
OU entered its game against West Virginia on a four-game losing streak, which prompted Moser to start Jacob over Elijah Harkless. Despite being a go-to scorer in crunch time, Harkless' efficiency has been down lately.
The 6-foot-3 senior averaged 8 points and 3.3 turnovers per contest on 28.9% shooting from the floor during OU's four-game losing streak.
Jacob went straight to work in his first start with the Sooners.
After delivering an assist on OU's first possession of the game, the 6-foot-9 forward closed out the first half with a bang. Jacob caught a pass just a few feet after crossing halfcourt and drilled a deep 3-pointer at the buzzer to send the Sooners into the break with a 30-22 lead.
Jacob finished with a season-high 12 points and four rebounds in 26 minutes. Harkless went scoreless in just four minutes off the bench.
"(Harkless) is healthy, and Elijah is going to be a huge part of what we’re doing," Moser said. "Tonight was a thing where I shook up the lineup."
Harkless could still close out games for OU, but Jacob has a legitimate case to remain in the starting lineup moving forward. He brings more size to the first unit, while Harkless provides some much-needed experience to the bench.
Free throws proved crucial for OU
All Johnson could do was laugh.
OU held a 61-46 lead with 6:28 left in the game when Johnson was sent to the free throw line. The redshirt senior attempted his first foul shot, but he put a little too much behind it.
It didn't matter, though.
The ball smacked the backboard and still went in, which drew a smile from Johnson and his teammates. It was that kind of a night from the line for the Sooners, who went 21-for-22 (95.5%) in that department.
"You've got to do that if you're going to win on the road," Moser said of the team's free throw shooting. "You've got to do that to hold a lead, and so I thought those guys did a nice job stepping up at the line."
The last time the Sooners shot over 90% from the line with a minimum of 20 attempts was when they went 19-for-21 (90.5%) in a win over UCF on Dec. 21, 2019.
Late turnovers nearly sink the Sooners
OU allowed West Virginia to get back into the game down the stretch.
After only committing two turnovers in the first 14 minutes of the second half, the Sooners committed six turnovers the rest of the way. They totaled 17 turnovers on the night.
Turnovers continue to be an issue for OU, which committed a season-high 25 of them in its 65-51 loss to then-No. 5 Baylor last Saturday.
While the sloppy finish didn't cost OU the win on Wednesday, it needs to take better care of the basketball for all 40 minutes of its road game against No. 1-ranked Auburn on Saturday at 1 p.m.
This article originally appeared on Oklahoman: OU vs. West Virginia basketball: Sooners snap four-game skid