West Virginia had lost to Oklahoma twice this season, once in a heartbreaker on the road and once in a blowout in Morgantown. They faced the monumental task of facing OU for the 3rd time, this go-around in the Big 12 Tournament.
Somehow, some way, the Mountaineers were victorious in this game. But they had to go through Hades and back to attain it.
Hield Steals WVU's Victory, But Instant Replay Gives it Back
Buddy Hield had struggled this entire game. WVU's intense pressure had gotten to the Wooden Award-favorite, as he only had 1 field goal in this matchup to go along with 3 turnovers. However, with the Sooners only down 2 points with 1.8 seconds left, Hield sent the building into a frenzy.
Hield's unbelievable heave sucked the very souls out of the WVU players. He then took off into the stands, celebrating the apparent victory.
However, his teammates brought him back to his senses. The referees would have to analyze that from the instant replay screen. After a few moments of extreme agony on both sidelines, West Virginia exploded in jubilance after learning they had won the game.
Hield's shot as 1/10th of a second too late. However, it's a shot that will go down in Big 12 and college basketball lore.
West Virginia's Grit Catches Oklahoma Off Guard
The Mountaineers came into this game wanting to punch the Sooners in the mouth. For the most part, they succeeded in that effort, forcing OU into a whopping 21 turnovers. West Virginia was suffocating the Sooners every time they inbounded the ball, swarming around the rock.
WVU in particular played sensational defense on Buddy Hield. They threw every guard possible on arguably the best player in the nation. Hield scored only 6 points in this game, half coming from the free throw line.
The Mountaineers got a massive boost out of Jevon Carter in this game. The floor general has had a topsy-turvy season, but he went ballistic tonight for 6 three-pointers. Carter carved out 26 points from the night, leading the Mountaineers in scoring.
Jaysean Paige, arguably the best player to come off the bench in the nation, had a cold shooting night, going 3-10 overall and 0-4 from deep. However, one of his shots was the difference-maker in WVU's win. With about 13 ticks remaining in the 2nd half, Paige buried a long jumper to give West Virginia the lead, 68-67. Paige stuck to his gameplan of shooting when he got some wiggle room, and it paid off in the clutch.
Almost Choked Away
OU's 2nd to last possession featured a very lucky break for West Virginia. Christian James, a youngster who had keyed OU's run to get back in the game after being down 12 points in the 2nd half, drove into the lane with a fury. Right at the basket, he tried to get a little too fancy with the ball as he finger-rolled it right into the rim. The ball bounced into the hands of WVU's Jonathan Holton.
Throughout the game, WVU could never truly put Oklahoma away. Missed opportunities in the paint plagued the Mountaineers throughout, botching easy layups. The consistent shooting of Isaiah Cousins (15 points) and Jordan Woodard (11 points) kept OU afloat, along with the strong effort by Ryan Spangler (12 points).
Hield's shot right at the end was almost fitting, as West Virginia let Oklahoma miraculously get back into the game several times in this matchup. However, the clock was just barely on the side of the Mountaineers in this one.
Oklahoma will now wait to see if they are a 2 or 3 seed in the NCAA Tournament. With the cast they present, the Sooners could be in the Final Four come April. They will, however, have to find a way to win without relying on outside shooting so much.
West Virginia will face Kansas in the Big 12 Tournament Championship at 6:00 PM EST Saturday. The two teams split the regular season series, so we should expect a wild game indeed.