Since then, the Sooners have played as though they accidentally screwed up their spring break plans.
Getting hammered on the road by the No. 18 team in the country? Not great, but it happens. K-State is a bad matchup for the Sooners even when OU is playing with purpose. What went down at the Sprint Center in Kansas City on Wednesday night, however, is a different matter.
You could charitably describe OU’s performance against the 10th-seeded West Virginia Mountaineers in the opening round of the Big 12 Tournament as “unfocused.” The listless Sooners displayed horrendous shot selection, botched easy scoring opportunities and gave away the store on the boards (16-5 offensive rebounding advantage for WVU) en route to a 72-71 upset loss. They capped it off with one of the most shameful final minutes in recorded basketball history.
Let’s go to the tape...
(Note: You might not be able to see the “highlights” on Apple News)
The long two
After WVU forward Derek Culver put the Mountaineers up by three points on a stickback under the goal, OU point guard Jamal Bieniemy leisurely advanced the ball down to the offensive end of the floor with three timeouts in Lon Kruger’s back pocket.
OU forward Kristian Doolittle took a pass from Bieniemy at the top of the key and awkwardly attempted to take Culver off the dribble before firing up a long jump shot with 46 seconds left. It missed everything.
A high point?
After WVU gained possession off Doolittle’s hoist, Kruger opted against fouling the Eers, who were in the single bonus and rank 266th in the country in free-throw percentage.
Twenty-three seconds melted off the clock before guard Jordan McCabe did the Sooners a solid by bricking a layup with nine seconds remaining on the shot clock. If you watched the previous 39 minutes, it came as little surprise that Culver proceeded to snag the offensive rebound with 22 seconds left to go in the game and eight ticks to go on the shot clock.
What was surprising was that OU successfully contested Culver’s putback attempt, which hit the side of the backboard. This was arguably the highlight of final 60 seconds for the Sooners.
Air ball, part 2
The carom went to OU guard Aaron Calixte with 18.7 seconds left on the clock. Calixte pushed the ball down the floor, his teammates following him at the pace of moderately aggressive mall walkers.
Finding his path to the rim blocked by four Mountaineer defenders, Calixte shoveled the ball to a trailing Bieniemy. The freshman guarded took a dribble to his left, pulled up behind the three-point arc with 13.3 seconds left and... threw up OU’s second consecutive air ball.
Take your time
Bienemy’s jumper nestled comfortably in the mitts of WVU guard Jermaine Haley underneath his own basket with 11.5 seconds left. Still down three points, the Sooners on the floor stood motionless or began hustling back on defense.
(Presumably they were worried that one of the five Eers located below the free-throw line would leak out on a fast break; they didn’t need to worry, though, because Doolittle never made it past half court.)
Haley held the ball in place unmolested for nearly four seconds before Bieniemy could get a hand on him to foul.
With Haley going to the line, Kruger felt it prudent to use one of his three remaining timeouts to set up OU’s strategy for the final 8.1 seconds.
Befitting a 64 percent free-throw shooter, Haley missed the front end of the bonus. Doolittle grabbed the rebound and fired the ball out to Bienemy.
Three dribbles brought Bienemy to the middle of the floor at half court, where he found Christian James on the right wing with 3.9 seconds left. James dribbled once toward the three-point arc and crossed back between his legs.
James gave a pump fake to WVU forward Lamont West, who bit. The senior swing man gathered his feet, faded slightly to his right and released a feathery jumper that found nothing but the bottom of the net.
Just one thing...
In spite of that disastrous minute of basketball, the Sooners have actually climbed in the NET (NCAA Evaluation Tool) Rankings since the start of the Big 12 Tournament, going from No. 40 to No. 37. The current system and college basketball landscape are lending the Sooners a helping hand, but they don’t deserve it after Wednesday night’s display. After all, it’s not like the things we witnessed are isolated incidents.