On Senior Day, the Oklahoma Sooners faced a must-win situation and rose to the occasion by picking up a W over West Virginia, 92-80. With the victory, OU improves to 18-11 on the season and 6-10 in Big 12 play.
It should be noted that this Mountaineers squad is reeling after a slew of injuries and player dismissals that have derailed this team since the season’s early going. Bob Huggins is a great coach, but even for him, guiding a team this young, inexperienced and shorthanded is a monumental challenge. Nevertheless, this was still a great team performance for Lon Kruger’s veteran group. The final margin doesn’t quite reflect the dominance of the performance, as Oklahoma held much larger leads throughout the second half.
One of the seniors recognized on Saturday was Rashard Odomes. His mother, a retired Sergeant First Class in the U.S. Army, was also honored as the Ford Patriot of the Game. The story of this mother and her son is both touching and inspiring.
Special moment today as retired Sergeant First Class Donna Stewart, mother of senior @R_Odomes, was recognized as the @PatriotFord Patriot of the Game.— Oklahoma Basketball (@OU_MBBall) March 2, 2019
Their story https://t.co/tWnqzRB1Dm pic.twitter.com/YxQ1wAxwZi
Speaking of Odomes, here’s a play that pretty much sums up how this game went for both squads. The senior guard turned the ball over but quickly recovered and got it back, and in the ensuing mad scramble found Jamal Bieniemy, who promptly made the Mountaineers pay from deep.
Both teams got off to hot starts from the jump, though Oklahoma trailed throughout the early stages of the first half. West Virginia led by as many as eight points (thanks in large part to a big advantage on the glass) before the Sooners hit that next gear and turned up the defensive intensity. It was a balanced effort from the Crimson & Cream in the half, with seven different players logging points. Freshman Jamal Bieniemy led all scorers on Senior Day with 12 points in the half, including 4-5 from three. By the end of the first twenty minutes, OU had forced 12 WVU turnovers and held them scoreless from the field for the final six. At the break, Oklahoma led West Virginia, 42-28.
In the second half, the undermanned Mountaineers didn’t lay down, but the hot Sooners didn’t let up. On the day, Oklahoma went 10-21 from three-point territory, and shot over 59% from the field. After Bieniemy’s fiery start in the first half, it was the veterans’ turn to close this one out the right way. Maine grad transfer point guard Aaron Calixte came off the bench and recorded a season-high 22 points, tying Bieniemy for the team-high on Saturday. It was the first time all season two Sooners scored 20-plus in the same game.
Coming into the day, the Sooners were squarely on the bubble of most bracketology reports. A loss to the Mountaineers would have done more to affect Oklahoma’s resume and tournament chances than the win, but that doesn’t diminish the significance of this performance. Welcome to March.
Up next, Oklahoma plays its final game of the season at the Lloyd Noble Center on Tuesday, March 5 against Kansas. While the Jayhawks aren’t quite as dominant as they’ve normally been under Bill Self, this is still a team that’s capable of winning the Big 12 Tournament and making a deep run in the Big Dance. In January, the overmatched Sooners batted valiantly in the first meeting in Lawrence, but ultimately fell, 70-63. Of course, a win for OU would be outstanding for its postseason tourney hopes, but it’s not necessarily an absolute must.
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