Oklahoma Basketball: Sooners poised for second place after win against West Virginia

Buddy Hield has a penchant for showing up in the big moments of games, he also has a short memory which probably helps to explain the former. When Oklahoma hosted West Virginia Wednesday, Hield again came up big.  He had 13 points on the evening, but it was the 12 that came in the second half that were huge.  All game He waited, like a lion stalking its prey.  With 9:55 left in the game, he pounced.  Oklahoma led 44-43 and desperately needed to pull away.  Five three point plays later—one the old fashioned way from Cameron Clark and the other four all triples from Hield—the Sooners found themselves with a nine point lead.  Hield wouldn’t score the rest of the night, but he had filled his role.  Oklahoma went on to win by a score of 72-62.

Je’lon Hornbeak had another good game for the Sooners, scoring 11 points, dishing three assists, swiping two steals, and not committing a single turnover in the process.  It’s certainly bodes well for Sooner fans to see him coming along nicely at this point in the season.

D.J. Bennett goes for the block.  (photo via Soonersports.com)

D.J. Bennett goes for the block. (photo via Soonersports.com)

Oklahoma forced 12 Mountaineer miscues and again won the points off of turnovers battle, 16-12.  However, they were outscored in the paint, on second chances, and on the fast break.  But it was the Sooners undaunted effort from beyond the arc (11-for-30) that won them the game.

When Hield wasn’t making clutch threes, it was Clark who shouldered the scoring load for the Sooners.  Clark scored seven of the Sooners’ first 10 points to get them off to a hot start.  It was apparent from the get-go that he was on.  He nailed mid-range jumpers.  He drained threes.  He soared for the rebound.  In the end, the senior, in his final home game, scored 19 points and grabbed 10 rebounds, a fitting farewell.  When he exited the game for the last time, fans rose to their feet and showered him with a deserved adulation.  Clark has been an integral part of the team this season.  His PPG average is up +8.5 from last season.  His RPG +2.3.  He has already made more threes than he has any season in his four year career and is doing so very efficiently (45.3%).  Without Clark, it’s debatable the Sooners would even be where they are now.

And there are where no one thought they would be.

Picked to finish tied for fifth by coaches, Oklahoma has a good chance to finish second, behind only Kansas, in the conference.  All it has to do is win against TCU, which is currently 0-17 in conference play, on Saturday.  Certainly Oklahoma will proceed with caution, after being upset in Fort Worth last season, but regardless of what happens they will have exceeded expectations.  Lon Kruger has done a fantastic job molding this team in just three years as head coach, and one can only envision brighter days ahead for this young squad.

With the NCAA tournament looming, Oklahoma will undoubtedly feel the pressures of March.  Losses in this month sting far more than in the ones that precede it.  Still, this team has shown poise under pressure all season long.  Whether it was an improbable comeback against Seton Hall early in the year, or tough road wins at Gallagher-Iba Arena and the Frank Erwin Center, their fortitude has been tested, and they have passed with flying colors.  The Sooners are arguably playing their best basketball of the year right now, having won four of their last five—the lone exception being a close road loss at Kansas.  Any team that draws them had better come prepared because when Oklahoma fights, it does so for 40 minutes.

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