KANSAS CITY, Mo. — It was Buddy’s Basket, Part II.
Well sort of. This time Oklahoma’s shot at the buzzer counted, unlike Buddy Hield’s halfcourt heave that came too late the 2016 Big 12 tournament. Only this time replays showed that Christian James’ foot was on the 3-point line at the buzzer.
What was thought to be a game-tying 3, instead became a two, and the Mountaineers escaped with a 72-71 upset of the Sooners in the Big 12 tournament.
“Yeah, I was waiting for James to go jump in the crowd like Buddy Hield did,” said West Virginia’s Logan Routt, who played a gutsy game with eight points and five rebounds off the bench. “I was just waiting for the reaction from the fans. I didn’t really want to watch the replay.”
Mountaineers freshman Emmitt Matthews couldn’t take his eyes off the video board.
“I saw the replay get blown up and I saw his foot was on the line,” Matthews said. “I started jumping up and down.”
Fellow freshman Jordan McCabe watched Matthews “jumping like a kangaroo. He starts yelling, ‘It was a two.’ Then, I saw Huggs smile, so it must have been OK.”
James’ clutch shot only led to a disappointing flashback: “It felt good. I tried to create space and get a good look. I didn’t know my foot was on the line. It was a tough moment, just like my freshman year.”
West Virginia, the No. 10 seed, will face second-seeded Texas Tech, at 7 p.m. Thursday in the quarterfinals.
It was a back-and-forth game in which the Mountaineers (13-19) survived two first-half obstacles: Oklahoma shooting at a torrid 54.8 percent (17-of-31) and playing the final 11 minutes without freshman forward Derek Culver, who picked up two quick fouls.
“Some pretty tough calls, but I have to adjust better than I did,” said Culver, who had six points and seven rebounds in just 13 minutes of action.
Lamont West and Logan Routt picked up some of the slack. The duo connected on the game’s best early highlight, when West spun around an Oklahoma defender in the paint and dished to a wide-open Routt who stuffed it for a 12-6 lead.
Oklahoma’s herd of shooters came through late in the half and West Virginia’s defense had no answers.
Oklahoma (19-13) was 5-of-6 shooting from the floor over the final five minutes that turned a 27-22 deficit turn into a 35-33 lead.
“It was like a boxing match out there,” West said. “We came out punching and they punched back. That’s kind of what the game is supposed to be about.”
The back-and-forth continued for much of the second half. Brady Manek hit a couple of 3s to put the Sooners up by five, but the Mountaineers answered with a transition lay-up from Matthews and three 3-pointers by McCabe that gave the Mountaineers a 53-49 advantage with 11:07 remaining.
Then, it was West’s turn to get back into the action. After scoring 10 points in the first half, West was held scoreless over the first 11 minutes of the second, but that soon changed.
After drawing a foul from Oklahoma guard Miles Reynolds that knocked West to the floor, the WVU forward refused Reynolds’ help back up.
West then drained a 3 for a 58-54 lead. He drew another foul on an 18-footer and sank both free throws to for a 62-56 lead with 7:31 remaining.
The Sooners came up with their own answers.
Kristian Doolittle scored an and-one bucket in transition, Jamal Bieniemy spun around McCabe on another possession along the baseline and Brady Manek connected on two free throws that cut the Mountaineers’ lead, 66-65, with four minutes left.
It set up a wild finish that saw Jermaine Haley with an opportunity to seal the game with 8.1 seconds left.
But Haley missed the front end of a one-and-one with a 72-69 lead and James eventually found himself with the ball on the left wing.
He pump-faked once to draw West up in the air — “I wasn’t falling for that,” West said. “I wasn’t going to foul him.” But then James stepped in an inch too close, his sneaker edging across the 3-point arc.
“When he pump-faked, he must have came in a little bit,” West said.
Haley, who admitted that he lost track of the score and thought James’ shot was a game-winner, finished with a double-double of 14 points and 12 rebounds. West added 15 points, McCabe scored 12 and West Virginia held a 46-36 rebounding advantage.
Manek’s 22 points led Oklahoma.
“We had some opportunities early in the second half there to widen the lead,” Oklahoma coach Lon Kruger said. “We couldn’t quite do that. Both teams battled and we didn’t make a play at the end.”