The Sooners came into the Sweet Sixteen as a 1.5 point underdog to the Michigan State Spartans. Lacking the post season experience of their counterpart, Oklahoma quickly built an 18-8 lead behind a blistering pace of play. However, over the course of 40 minutes, numerous aspects changed. The defenses clamped down as Tom Izzo's crew fought back closing the gap to four just before halftime. In the end defense won out as the Spartans advanced to the Elite 8 behind a 62-58 victory over Oklahoma.
Getting a few calls and claiming the momentum, Branden Dawson knocked down a jumper to take the first lead of the night 44-42 with 9:30 left in regulation. From that point on, the defense controlled the game. Holding their opponent to 30% shooting in the second half sent the Sooners into frustration mode. As the clock continued to wind down, a battle of strategies ensued. Coach Izzo opted to force the ball into the hands of his best free throw shooters (only two shooting over 80%) expecting OU to foul.
On the other side of the equation, Lon Kruger instructed his players to attack the rim with MSU's Gavin Schilling and Matt Costello in foul trouble. Hoping for a few "easy" points, TaShawn Thomas connected on four consecutive free throws to give the Sooners a chance by pulling within three pulling his total to 14 on the evening. Back and forth the game went. Unfortunately, time ran out as Buddy Hield tossed up a prayer hoping to hit a 3-point attempt or draw the foul ending with 18 points of his own.
The star of the evening was none other than Travis Trice. Continuing to display the progress he has made during his time as a Spartan, Trice kept his senior season alive. Behind a game high 20 points, the senior guard provided two clutch free throws making it a two possession game.
In two areas I thought Oklahoma had to excel, rebounding and free throws, they lived up to my expectations. Shooting 87.5% from the charity stripe, the Sooners out-rebounded Michigan State 38-36. Again, it simply wasn't enough as costly turnovers late in the game all but sealed OU's fate.