OU basketball: Sooners' 2OT win at West Virginia is 'definitely a push forward to the postseason'
In yet another nail-biting moment at the close of a wild game, OU found a way to come out on the right side.
West Virginia had plenty of chances, especially at the end of regulation and the second overtime, to put the Sooners away.
In what proved to finally be the finish of the game, OU got a block from a little-used big man, turned the ball over after a timeout, then dogged the Mountaineers defensively once again, forcing a pair of misses that ultimately ended one of the biggest wins of the season for the No. 12 Sooners, a 91-90 decision over No. 14 West Virginia on Saturday at WVU Coliseum in Morgantown.
The short-term implications were plenty — a momentum-building road win in a tough environment, a seventh win in eight games and moving into second place in the Big 12.
But the long-term implications could be just as big.
Not that the Sooners (13-5, 8-4 Big 12) lacked in high-stress, high-leverage experiences even before Saturday, but the game against the Mountaineers (14-6, 7-4) was packed with them.
The end of both halves of regulation and both overtimes had plenty of the type of moments that become even more critical in the postseason.
For a Sooners team that seems poised to make a March run, pulling out victories like Saturday’s could be critical.
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“To win games like this, it gives us the confidence that we can pull out the close games,” said Austin Reaves who had 28 points, nine rebounds and seven assists, hitting what proved to be the game-winning bucket with 26 seconds left.
Brady Manek, who started for the second consecutive game and drew yet another tough defensive assignment, this time on West Virginia’s Derek Culver, was more direct.
“It’s definitely a push forward to the postseason,” Manek said. “It makes us a lot better. It makes us tougher. We can learn from it.”
Coming out of a timeout after his bucket put the Sooners ahead in the final 30 seconds, Reaves looked over at Kur Kuath.
“Go get one,” Reaves said.
“Say less,” Kuath responded.
Then Kuath followed Reaves’ suggestion, staying glued to Culver on the inbounds, going up with two hands and swatting Culver’s driving layup attempt back off of the Mountaineers star and out of bounds to give the Sooners the ball back.
“Big-time, big-time play,” Sooners coach Lon Kruger said, repeating himself for emphasis.
Kuath had averaged nearly 20 minutes per game over OU’s first 16 games. Over the last two, which included 10 extra overtime minutes Saturday, Kuath has played a total of less than 16.
Kuath’s block could’ve been the exclamation point, but nothing came easy for the Sooners in this one, and they turned the ball over shortly after the inbounds, giving the Mountaineers another chance.
But Culver and Jalen Bridges each missed shots on the final possession, as OU’s defense made yet another statement in the closing seconds.
The Sooners held West Virginia to just 7 of 24 from behind the 3-point line as Kruger opted to defend the perimeter hard and leave Manek and Kuath to handle Culver inside.
“In those situations, you just gotta stay calm and stick to what coach tells us,” Reaves said. “He’ll put us in the right situations to get a win.”