Deja review: Replay again costs Oklahoma basketball vs. West Virginia
KANSAS CITY, Mo. – The Sooner senior launched an improbable shot that went in at the buzzer, seemingly allowing OU’s basketball team to avoid defeat against West Virginia in the nightcap of a rousing Big 12 Tournament doubleheader.
Then the striped shirts went to replay, and the Sooners were declared the losers.
Buddy Hield and Co. in 2016? Yes.
Christian James and Co. in 2019? Yes.
Hield’s halfcourt shot in the 2016 Big 12 semifinals was wiped away, found to leave Hield’s hands a fraction of a second after the final buzzer, and West Virginia had a 69-67 victory at the Sprint Center.
In their first tournament meeting since that memorable night, the Sooners and Mountaineers staged a sequel Wednesday night in the Big 12 pig-tail round. James appeared to nail a game-tying 3-pointer at the buzzer, which would have forged a 72-72 tie. Instead, replay showed the officials that James had a toe on the line, his basket was worth just two points, and the Mountaineers had a 72-71 victory.
Call it deja review.
With one big difference. The 2016 Sooners rallied from that discouraging defeat and made the Final Four. The 2019 Sooners don’t have the talent to make such a run, and apparently lack the fortitude, too.
A bewildering OU season continued in KC, where the Sooners lost to the Big 12’s last-place team, a team with a trimmed roster from injury and dismissals, and a team that Wednesday night got only 13 minutes out of freshman center Derek Culver, who was mired in foul trouble.
The Sooners, now 19-13, apparently had played themselves safely into the NCAA Tournament. Now they’ve played themselves back onto the bubble.
“I would say we were lacking emotion and fight from the beginning of the game,” OU’s Kristian Doolittle said. “Which is something that can’t happen … we weren’t ready to match their energy and create our own energy.”
How can that be? How can a team fighting for its post-season life come onto a big stage like the Sprint Center and not be ready to play? The crowd wasn’t dead – probably 15,000 in the house, phenomenal for a first-round game – so that’s no excuse. How can a team be flat in March? Somebody get this team a calendar.
Lon Kruger defended the squad by saying Doolittle was talking about the rebound fight, and the Sooners absolutely were dominated on the boards. OU outshot West Virginia 45.2 percent to 38 percent yet still got outrebounded 46-36. The Mountaineers outscored the Sooners 17-7 in second-chance points. In the last four minutes of a tight game, WVU got four offensive rebounds. That’s a killer.
“That’s always a big factor when you play West Virginia, and I thought they, again, won that battle with us,” Kruger said.
But this was more than West Virginia outhorsing the Sooners on the boards. The Sooners just were lifeless. And Doolittle knew it. He wasn’t just talking about rebounding.
And now the Sooners have lost the blessing of self-determination.
“It’s in God’s hands whether we get a bid or not,” James said. “I hope we’re in. Like I said, we’ve worked so hard to get to this game, and this game could have sealed the deal. It’s going to be a stressful couple of days, a lot of praying and hope we get a bid and go far in the tournament. Make a run.”
When James was a freshman, his Sooners made a great run after replay discouragement. In fact, in that West Virginia game three years ago in Kansas City, James had 13 points in 17 minutes, with five rebounds, as the Sooner sixth man.
But there is no great run coming for this team. If the Sooners get in, a quick exit seems almost certain.
That OU team had great leadership. This team does not. This team wasn’t ready to play, and now it must wait on the NCAA basketball committee to determine its fate.