After Trae Young’s 32 points kept No. 17 Oklahoma within reach, he needed a teammate to make a basket in the frantic final seconds.
West Virginia did not allow it.
Encircled by four defenders beneath the rim, Rashard Odomes couldn’t angle in a reverse layup as time expired and the No. 19 Mountaineers celebrated a 75-73 victory Monday night in Norman, Okla.
Given his team’s mercurial stretch over the past month — posting consecutive wins after losing five out of six — WVU coach Bob Huggins poked fun at fans who are “jumping on and off bandwagon so much I’m afraid they’re going to get hurt.”
At present the love is back, accompanied by a legit pursuit of the Big 12 crown, after West Virginia (18-6, 7-4) stamped out the Sooners’ 14-game winning streak at Lloyd Noble Center.
Lamont West scored 15 of his 17 points during a three-minute, first-half flurry for West Virginia, setting the stage for what looked to be a shootout. But after leading 50-40 at the midpoint, the Mountaineers survived 26-percent shooting in the second half.
“That’s how we play — we make a lot and then we miss a lot,” Huggins said.
They flew home a half-game behind conference leaders Texas Tech and Kansas.
It boiled down to the final 13 seconds, when West Virginia led 74-73 as Esa Ahmad went to the foul line. He made the first free throw but went front rim on the second attempt, setting off a defensive scramble that saved the game.
OU center Khadeem Lattin grabbed the rebound and had his shovel pass to Young deflected by Ahmad and Jevon Carter. That ate up valuable clock as Young raced across midcourt with only 6 seconds left.
Just as the nation’s leading scorer picked up speed to attack the lane, he encountered Mountaineers center Sagaba Konate poking the ball loose. When Young regained control with 3 seconds left, he had no room to squeeze off a jumper but whipped a left-handed pass to Odomes underneath.
The 6-6 guard caught it pinned against the baseline and, with defenders converging, knifed backwards for a difficult shot that Ahmad altered.
“It was a layup. I should’ve finished it,” Odomes said.
He squatted in the lane for several moments as Mountaineers players rejoiced. Among the most relieved was Carter, who recalled the scene here two years ago when Lattin made a buzzer-beating tip-in at the same basket.
“I had a flashback to my sophomore year, when my man went by me, missed the shot and they got a putback and we lost the game,” he said.
Though Carter’s shotmaking woes in Big 12 road games continued — he sank only 5-of-17 — the senior dealt eight assists and made six steals. His defense contributed to Young’s six turnovers.
“Young’s terrific, but the guy guarding him is pretty good,” Huggins said. “He’s not going to play against anybody better than the guy that guarded him today.”
After Young’s night began with two long-range airballs, his lethal scoring soon was on display. West Virginia curbed his ability to distribute the ball, however, and he finished with a season-low one assist, nine under his per-game average.
“They were making him finish at the rim. They didn’t help off and they stayed home on the perimeter receivers,” said Sooners coach Lon Kruger.
Young, reportedly playing through an illness, compiled 14 turnovers and six assists during two losses against the Mountaineers
“I think they were going to live with me scoring and try to contain my teammates,” he said.
“They like to rough up the game. I don’t think anybody else in the country plays how they play.”
Konate finished with 14 points and 11 rebounds for his seventh double-double. He added two blocked shots and several turnaways in which Sooners players decided to pivot and pass rather than challenge.
Ahmad scored 14 points, including eight of West Virgina’s final 12.
After Oklahoma trimmed an 11-point deficit to 68-65, Ahmad countered on back-to-back possessions with a 19-foot jumper and driving dunk over the 6-9 Lattin.
Kruger’s last-play strategy
The Sooners opted against using a timeout on the final possession, figuring Young could find space to create in transition.
“When (Ahmad) missed the free throw short and Trae had the open court, you let him go,” Kruger said.
“I liked what we had. We had the timeout ready to call if we needed it but we talked about it before the free throws. We told Trae if he got in open court we wouldn’t call it. He had a good look.”
“He was on fire.” — Konate responding to Lamont West making five 3s in the span of 2:48
“For some reason, nobody ever fouls us.” — Huggins firing sarcasm at Oklahoma attempting 19 free throws to West Virginia’s nine.
Notes, numbers, etc
— After averaging 93 points across its first five Big 12 home games, Oklahoma (16-7, 6-5) couldn’t rival that clip because of 38-percent shooting in the second half. “With West Virginia’s trapping and pressure it’s hard to get any flow,” Kruger said. “It’s not like you run a lot of set pays against them. It never was easy and it never was pretty.”
— Despite Lattin’s 13 boards, West Virginia edged ahead in rebounding, 38-36.
— The Mountaineers missed their opening nine shots of the second half and didn’t score for more than five minutes. Yet with OU starting the half 1-of-12, the lead never changed hands
— Huggins’ teams had been 0-7 in Monday road games after a Saturday home game.