The month of February got off to a rough start for Oklahoma's basketball team but it was also the month that changed the course of the season. After finishing in second place in the Big 12 during the regular season, the Sooners are now set to make their second consecutive NCAA Tournament appearance under Coach Lon Kruger when they tip off against North Dakota State on Thursday night. However, a look back at the schedule will point to a trip to Stillwater, OK on February 15th that put Oklahoma on track to make this week's trip to Spokane a reality.
The Sooners started the month off with back-to-back losses at Iowa State and, in overtime, at West Virginia. In their first game back home they soundly beat Baylor, 88-72, but then the unthinkable happened. On Wednesday night, February 12th, Oklahoma dropped a game to lowly Texas Tech, 68-60, on their home floor. Suddenly they were involved in a stretch where they were losers of three of their last four games and a second place finish was the last think on Oklahoma's mind. The Sooners were now officially in a fight to save their season and NCAA Tournament hopes.
Then everything changed on that Saturday afternoon in Stillwater. With their backs placed firmly against the wall, this Oklahoma basketball team realized their potential and found their leader. Trailing 68-65, with 2:02 left in the game, freshman guard Jordan Woodard grabbed the rebound from a missed free throw attempt by Oklahoma State's Kamari Murphy. Bringing the ball up the floor, Woodard found sophomore guard Buddy Hield in the corner and in three-point range. Woodard made the pass and Hield made the shot. With the game now tied at 68-68 the Sooners had life in them.
After a missed jump shot by O-State's Le'Bryan Nash, Ryan Spangler cleared the board for Oklahoma and the Sooners quickly called a time out. It was Buddy Hield they wanted to get the ball to and Kruger drew up a play for exactly that. Hield, who was once again in three-point range, got the ball off a Spangler assist and nailed his second trey in a row to put OU on top 71-68. Just a few seconds later Woodard would sink two free throws to make it an 8-0 Oklahoma run over the span of a minute and thirty seconds.
The 8-0 run not only changed the outcome of the game, Oklahoma won 77-74, but it also changed the outcome of the Sooners' season. The win in Stillwater started a stretch where OU won five of their final six games to close out the season. Their only loss during that stretch was on the road at Kansas where the Sooners hung around a lot longer than the Jayhawks would have liked. It was a stretch that saw Oklahoma beat Texas 77-65 in Norman to complete the season sweep and it saw the Sooners get vengeance on West Virginia for their prior loss.
Most importantly it was a stretch where a young Oklahoma team grew up. Instead of packing it in for the season after that Tech loss they came together to build the momentum to make a final run down the stretch, and they'll need every ounce of that momentum in Spokane this weekend to continue extending their season.