It was an odd night inside the Lloyd Noble Center.
Iowa State freshman point guard Lindell Wigginton had, what should be, the dunk of the year in college basketball this season, but then fell to the ground and got hurt for a couple minutes of game-time. Redshirt junior center, Jamuni McNeace, was fighting for a rebound around the free throw line, and then somehow tipped it in the goal backwards from just under 15-feet away. Trae Young started the game out 1-of-10 from the field, but a random fan–who was wearing a pair of chacos–hit a half-court shot for $5,000 in his third and final attempt.
In the second half, Rashard Odomes was contested at the rim by old friend Jeff Beverly of Iowa State. After he made the layup and the referee blew his whistle, Odomes turned to Beverly and yelled “AND ONE!” right in his face and received a technical foul. Senior Khadeem Lattin ended up fouling out in his final game of his Oklahoma career inside the Lloyd Noble Center after breaking the all-time blocks record as a Sooner earlier in the first half.
Call it wacky, weird, or whatever adjective is needed to describe a night that was a little different in terms of what actually happened on the court, but Oklahoma (18-12, 8-10) earned an 81-60 win over Iowa State (13-17, 4-14), and ended the regular season on a positive note.
“Happy for the guys tonight. Iowa State obviously battled even there for a while. We had a nice little run just before half, I thought that was a big key in the ballgame, and in the second half opened up a little bit of a margin,” Oklahoma head coach Lon Kruger said in his opening statement following his team’s win. “Lot of guys played well. Made a lot of good plays for each other. Probably as good of awareness and engagement as a group of five defensively as we have had for a while. Again, proud of guys, and now look forward to getting better for next week.”
It was Khadeem Lattin’s last game as a Sooner, and he left his mark during his time at Oklahoma.
The senior was a part of Lon Kruger’s transformation of this program. He played sparingly, but was a part of the Sooners’ run to the Sweet 16 in 2014-2015 as a freshman. He started on Oklahoma’s Final Four team in 2015-2016 (first Final Four since 2002) as a sophomore. Now, he will leave Norman with his name etched in the record books as the Sooners’ all-time shot blocker with 231 career blocks.
“It was special,” Lattin said about his senior night. “Just to be able to grab a record in front of your own home crowd, with the people who have been here for you the most, it was special, and I really appreciated that.”
“Senior night or Khadeem night, since he is the only senior, so worked out well. Happy for him, very happy for him,” Kruger said. “He got that block early, and ya know, to be the all-time at anything at any university, especially when you got such other good players mentioned in the same top group of five (is special). Really happy for Khadeem, and very proud.”
In Oklahoma’s season finale, Kameron McGusty stole the show from Trae Young. The sophomore got back to his old ways, leading the Sooners’ in scoring with 18 points on 6-of-12 shooting from the field, including 4-of-7 from three. McGusty’s season as had plenty of peaks and valleys, but the sophomore is ready for what’s ahead.
“Very good, especially going into Big 12 play, our whole team looks forward to this performance,” McGusty said. “It was a great team performance. We played great defense, moved the ball well, and like I said, looking forward to building on it going into Wednesday.”
The steady force during Kruger and co.’s slide has been junior Christian James. James has been the voice in the background pushing his teammates, and has also got it done on the court, scoring in double-digits in each of the last seven games including tonight. He scored 15 points on 4-of-10 shooting from the field against Iowa State in their second win in three games, but knows as a team that defense is the key to the door in March.
“Definitely. I would say it’s more mentally than anything else,” James said about turning it around. “Just play with confidence and knock down shots like we did earlier, and we’ll be fine. The biggest part we’re concerned about is defense right now. We have so much to work on there. Once we lock in defensively, we can compete with anybody.”
Trae Young had an off-night shooting, only scoring 15 points on 5-of-19 shooting from the field, including 1-of-9 from behind the 3-point line.
Jamuni McNeace had another productive game despite coming off the bench. The redshirt junior finished with eight points and nine rebounds, and showed off his ability to score in the post once again.
Oklahoma’s fate for their seeding ahead of the Big 12 tournament is left to be determined. With the win, they get to sit and watch three games tomorrow:
West Virginia at Texas
Baylor at Kansas State
Kansas at Oklahoma State
If all the higher seeded teams win, the Sooners will be the 6-seed and play on Thursday night at 8:00 p.m.. If Baylor loses, but Texas wins, Oklahoma will play on Wednesday night in the play-in games for the Big 12 tournament. There is even a scenario that Oklahoma drops to the 9-seed.
The scenarios are as confusing as trying to explain what happened in the Lloyd Noble Center on Friday night, but one thing was determined: the Oklahoma Sooners will be playing in the NCAA Tournament after going 11-20 a year ago.