On Sunday night, the 9th-seeded Oklahoma Sooners saw their 2019 NCAA Tournament run end at the hands of No. 1 seed Virginia, 63-51. It was still somewhat of a game at the half, but OU could hardly muster any type of offensive rhythm against UVA’s stifling defense. Long story short, this contest went according to plan for the Cavaliers, as evidenced by the relatively low score and slow pace.
Final from Columbia: UVA 63, OU 51 pic.twitter.com/v8QOT6BTeX— Oklahoma Basketball (@OU_MBBall) March 25, 2019
Even in a losing effort, sophomore forward Brady Manek had himself a solid game, doing what he could to keep the Sooners alive in the first half. On the night, the Harrah native recorded 13 points and five rebounds, including three makes from beyond the arc. Going into next season, Manek will figure to be one of the team’s central pillars as both a scorer and a leader.
From the jump, things weren’t looking very pretty for Oklahoma, as Virginia jumped out to a quick 7-0 lead. Following a timeout called by Lon Kruger, Manek stepped up to help settle his team down with a pair of threes.
The Sooners would use those buckets from Manek along with scores from Kristian Doolittle and Jamal Bieniemy to go on a 13-2 run. Remarkably, Oklahoma stymied the Cavaliers’ offense for nearly four minutes before UVA finally answered OU’s run with an 18-2 spurt of their own, effectively reclaiming the lead for good. Tony Bennett’s team would go up by as many as 13 in the first half before a couple late scores from Doolittle and Manek made it a 31-22 contest at the break.
Oklahoma began the second half much better on offense than the start of the game, but defensively the Sooners put up zero resistance against Virginia, especially in the paint. To make matters worse, nobody from OU’s bench tallied any points until there were 13 minutes left in the game. In a matchup where points were expected to be hard to come by, that kind of lack in production makes it nearly impossible to even be competitive.
Christian James laid an egg in the scoring column during the first twenty minutes, but the senior found a bit of a groove in the second half, scoring 13 points in his final collegiate game. This showing of his was a perfect microcosm of his season, and really his career. James will go down as always having had the potential to be a great Sooner, but inconsistency ultimately put that potential to bed.
Oklahoma’s 2018-19 season is now completely in the books as the Sooners finish the year with an overall record of 20-14. The incoming recruiting class looks to be one of the best ever in the Lon Kruger era, and with guys like Doolittle, Manek, Bieniemy and transfer Austin Reaves in the fold, the immediate future of this program looks moderately bright.
As far as this season is concerned, reaching the second round of the NCAA Tournament in what was the ultimate stop-gap year shouldn’t be overlooked. Things weren’t pretty once conference play began, but from a big-picture perspective, it’s tough to be too upset about the overall body of work.
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