Cameron Clark was resilient. Oklahoma had fallen behind against North Dakota State, but, with Clark’s help, had come back. The senior forward hit shot after shot to inch the Sooners closer to victory. Eventually, they snatched it. Clark’s offensive display their first lead since the first half with 1:30 remaining. Clark finished with 25 points and six rebounds, a phenomenal performance. Unfortunately, it was not enough. When the game appeared all but over, the Bison came stampeding back to force an extra period. In the overtime, they prevailed, basking in the adulation of a nation who cheers for the underdog. The final score on the epitaph of the Sooners’ tourney tombstone read 80-75. They were another victim of March Madness.
The Bison led for much of the game, as the Sooners struggled to connect early on. Though Oklahoma adeptly defended Taylor Braun, the Bison displayed a well-roundedness that explains why they were such a popular upset pick amongst experts. Where Braun left a gap, Lawrence Alexander filled it. The junior torched the Sooners for 28 points, seven rebounds, and four assists on the evening. The Sooners wavered at times—they didn’t completely abandon their fast-paced tempo, but at times it appeared they didn’t capitalize on opportunities to implement it.
The Sooners have only themselves to blame for the loss. The game could have been put away in regulation, but Oklahoma missed crucial free throws late in the game. Shortly after it had taken a three point lead and gotten a defensive stop on the ensuing possession, Oklahoma was fouled. With 39 seconds left, Jordan Woodard was sent to the line with a chance to make it a five point game and put the game within considerable reach of the Bison. He made the first, but missed the second. Isaiah Cousins fouled Braun, who made both free throws. Still, with 26 seconds left, North Dakota State was forced into fouling. This time Cousins went to the line. He followed in Woodard’s footsteps. Three point game. This left opportunity for the Bison to hit a three and send it into overtime, which is exactly what they did. The culprit was none other than Alexander. Three unsuccessful Oklahoma shots later, overtime had begun.
In overtime, teams went blow for blow. Clark seemed unwilling to accept anything other than a Sooner victory, keeping the Sooners within arm’s reach. Unfortunately, he received little help in the extra period. With help from free throws, North Dakota State was able to pull away.
Outside of Clark, Cousins performed exceptionally well, scoring 17 points, leading the team with eight rebounds, and also recording three steals. Woodard was the only other Sooner to reach double figures, with 13 points.
As disappointing as this loss is, there are certainly brighter days ahead of this team. With the exception of Clark, every starter is eligible to return in 2014-15, where they will hope to improve off of a tremendous season. Tyler Neal also graduates, but the rest of the bench is back. New additions Khadeem Lattin, Dante Buford, and Jamuni McNeace will improve post depth, a glaring weakness of the Sooners’ this season, which was exposed in this game. Most of all, Lon Kruger will be back at the helm, and with each step forward he has taken in his tenure here so far, one can only wonder what next season may hold. Until next year, Boomer Sooner!
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