Khadeem Lattin made up for his missed free throws in a big way.
Three weeks ago, when then-undefeated Oklahoma went into Phog Allen Fieldhouse to take on No. 1 Kansas, Lattin had a chance to win the game at the end of regulation from the free throw line. But the sophomore big man missed the front-end of a one-and-one, and the Jayhawks would go on to win a thriller in triple-overtime.
The college basketball world was a better place for it, but Norman, Oklahoma, wasn’t. There’s no shame in losing in the Phog — only nine teams have ever gone into that building and done anything other than lose when Bill Self has been coaching — but that’s kind of the point, isn’t it?
A win in Lawrence would have put Oklahoma in the driver’s seat when it comes to ending Kansas’ streak of 11 straight Big 12 regular season titles. Lattin’s miss cost them that opportunity, which is a lot to put on the plate of a college kid.
But like I said, he made up for it on Saturday.
Oklahoma was up 68-63 with 1:45 left on No. 11 West Virginia on Saturday afternoon, but the Mountaineers had managed to tie the game with 25 seconds left, setting up a final possession for the Sooners. Lon Kruger put the ball in Jordan Woodard’s hands, using Buddy Hield as a decoy to create a driving lane for Woodard, who missed a runner. But Lattin was there for the follow, tipping in the miss with 2.8 seconds left:
“It was kind of like a redemption game,” Lattin told reporters afterwards. “To tip it in was great.”
Buddy Hield would steal the ensuing inbounds pass as the Sooners moved to 15-1 and into a tie for first place in the Big 12 with a 70-68 win.
Hield led the way for the Sooners with 17 points while Woodard added 13 points, but the Sooners did not play all that well against West Virginia. They turned the ball over 18 times — which isn’t exactly unexpected — but they also shot just 33.3 percent from the floor and struggled to operate in the half court. That wasn’t expected. The knock on pressing teams like West Virginia is that they’re great when they can create turnovers in the back court, but if you can beat the press, you can score on them.
That wasn’t the case on Saturday against No. 2 Oklahoma and it wasn’t the case on Tuesday against No. 1 Kansas, and if West Virginia can do it against the top two teams in the country, then theoretically they can do it against anyone.
At this point, it may be time for us to realign our expectations of just how good this West Virginia team can be. Prior to the start of Big 12 play, the questions we had about this team centered around their ability to play on the road and their ability to have their press be effective against quality opponents. Well, this week alone, they beat the No. 1 team in the country and they were a last-second tip-in away from taking the soon-to-be No. 1 team in the country to overtime on the road.
As far as Oklahoma is concerned, this was a win they had to get. If they have their sights set on winning an outright Big 12 title, they are going to have to defend their home court against all challengers. There’s really no other way around, not in a league where the road is as unkind as it is in the Big 12.
That said, it will be nice to see their guards before better than they did tonight. Isaiah Cousins and Woodard were a combined 6-for-21 from the floor, and even Hield played a mediocre game by this season’s lofty standards. We’ll call that the West Virginia effect for now.
As of today, they can take solace in the fact that they will be the No. 1 team in the country as of Monday.