Columbia, SC—In a game where the Sooners weren’t expected to do much, Oklahoma did just that. The 63-51 loss to the No. 1 seed Virginia Cavaliers was expected even to the most die-hard of OU fans. The game was a microcosm of the Sooners season: Great at times, bad most of the time and a failure to finish.
OU scored 50 points in the first half against Ole Miss on Friday, a game the Sooners wish they could have repeated against the Cavaliers. Oklahoma’s inability to get to the rim as well as missing good looks, allowed the Cavaliers to dominate nearly all game.
After opening the game down 7-0, head coach Lon Kruger took a time out with 18:08 left in the first half to let his team get their heads right and focus on the task at hand. Out of the timeout Oklahoma fought, and fought well. OU clawed their way to a 13-9 lead in a span of just under six game minutes. The lead, was short-lived as Virginia played their brand of basketball and ran as if the Sooners were not on the court. The result being a nine-point deficit heading into the locker room.
Out of the break, Kruger’s crew showed some signs of life, shooting 60-percent and turning the ball over just once in the first eight minutes of the second half. However, the well-oiled machine that is Virginia basketball, smothered the Sooners on both ends of the court.
Mamadi Diakite had his way with Oklahoma, tallying 14 points, 9 rebounds and 3 of the Cavaliers’ 6 blocks. His presence was felt on both ends of the court, keeping Kristian Doolittle, Matt Freeman and Jamuni McNeace to a combined 11 points.
As for the Sooners, scoring was a premium. Until the second half, Brady Manek, Krisitan Doolittle, and Jamal Bieniemy were the only Sooners in the scoring column.
Manek shot well early but failed to knock down the few open looks he found in the tightly sealed Cavalier defense. He finished with 13 points and rebounds, shooting 5 of 13 from the field (3 of 9 from three).
Christian James also finished with 13 points, all of which coming in the second half. His play was lost for much of the game with most of his scoring coming when the game had no momentum for the Sooners to grab.
With the loss, Oklahoma’s season has come to an end. A second-round loss is never something to be happy about but for a team that was projected by much of the media to finish the season in the basement of the Big 12 and not make any noise in March, this team overachieved and worked until the final buzzer. There may not be another team in NCAA basketball that has had the ups and downs that Oklahoma has had. There may not be another team that could have weathered the storm like Sooners did.
Lon Kruger did a hell of a job taking this year’s group of young men and pushing them to their limit, no matter the circumstance. The Sooners have something to look forward to as they prep for the 2019-20 season with a top-10 recruiting class coming to Norman this summer.
With veterans like Manek and Doolittle coming back to compliment the rising star that is Jamal Bieniemy, look for the Sooners to make a splash next season.