Sooners Lose To West Virginia By 1 In Big 12 Tourney
KANSAS CITY - West Virginia held on to beat Oklahoma 72-71 in the Big 12 Tournament on Wednesday night when the Sooners’ Christian James, who appeared to knock down a buzzer-beating 3-pointer to force overtime, was determined to have had his foot on the line.
The officials overturned their original call and sent the No. 10 seed Mountaineers (13-19) into the quarterfinal round, where they will play No. 2 seed Texas Tech for a semifinal spot.
Lamont West had 15 points and Jermaine Haley had 14 to lead West Virginia, though Haley missed the first of two free throws that would have clinched the game with 8 seconds to go.
Jordan McCabe added 12 points for the Mountaineers, who finally had a reason to feel good after a season full of strife. They’ve kicked two starters off the team, another former starter announced his plans to transfer, and rim protector Sagaba Konate hasn’t played in months because of an injury.
None of which seemed to matter much Wednesday night.
Brady Manek had 22 points and Kristian Doolittle had 18 for the seventh-seeded Sooners, who are now poised to give the NCAA Tournament selection committee an intriguing case.
The Sooners have four quadrant-1 wins and a strong resume against quality opponents, but they are also just 19-13 overall and went 7-11 in the league. And with a loss to the Mountaineers, they won’t have an opportunity to add to their win total in Kansas City.
The Mountaineers, who have played in the past three title games, raced to an early lead against the Sooners, only to watch coach Lon Kruger’s team slowly claw back into the game.
They did it old-school, too. Oklahoma hit just one 3-pointer — James’ in the closing seconds for a 35-33 halftime advantage — and never made it to the foul line. Instead, the Sooners kept getting open looks in the middle of the Mountaineers defense for layups and short jumpers.
Manek hit a couple of quick 3-pointers out of the locker room to extend the lead, but McCabe soon caught fire. He drained four of them in quick succession as West Virginia pulled ahead.
West added a 3 of his own to make it 58-54 with 8 1/2 minutes to go.
Oklahoma kept it close the rest of the way, and Doolittle’s two free throws pulled the Sooners within 70-69 with 2:10 to go. But Derek Culver’s putback with just over a minute left extended West Virginia’s lead to 72-69, and Doolittle missed everything at the other end for Oklahoma.
The Sooners lost center Jamuni McNeace with 12 1/2 minutes left when he appeared to hurt his right ankle on a scrum under the bucket. McNeace had to be helped off the floor without putting any weight on his leg. He was scoreless with two rebounds.
West Virginia is still alive, at least for another day. The Mountaineers get the hottest team in the tournament — maybe the nation — in coach Chris Beard’s Texas Tech Red Raiders.
Oklahoma has a long wait until Selection Sunday. The Sooners beat West Virginia a couple weeks ago, and a win over Kansas down the stretch also helps. But a five-game skid in January and February will make the next few days interesting.
West Virginia plays the seventh-ranked Red Raiders on Thursday night.