Seeds and matchups for the 2019 Big 12 Tournament
By an inch or so, West Virginia is moving on in the Big 12 Tournament.
What appeared to be a game-tying three-point basket by Oklahoma’s Christian James did not survive a review.
James, as he gathered to set up for the shot, pump faked and wound up with a toe on the three-point arc. The officiating crew checked the monitor but the announced crowd of 18,858 at the Sprint Center was watching on the video board. West Virginia fans knew the shot would be worth only two points and give their team a 72-71 victory.
The 10th-seeded Mountaineers (13-19) move on to play second-seeded Texas Tech in Thursday’s quarterfinal game that will tip off at 6 p.m.
The final drama was set up when Jermaine Haley missed a free throw with 7 seconds remaining. Oklahoma got the look it needed with James finding room in front of the Sooners bench. He got the shot off in time as the buzzer sounded with the ball in the air. The game appeared to be headed for overtime before the closer inspection of James’ foot.
“It felt good as soon as it left my hand,” James said. “I created space and got a good look. I didn’t know my foot was on the line. It was kind of tough.”
Three years ago the same teams provided a similar dramatic ending with the same emotions. In a 2016 semifinal, Oklahoma guard Buddy Hield believed he had sank a game-winner from nearly halfcourt. But a video replay showed the shot was just late.
Despite a disappointing season, West Virginia’s winning ways in Kansas City continued. The Mountaineers have played in the past three Big 12 tournament title games.
It’s been a difficult season for the Mountaineers, coming off a Sweet 16 season and picked to finish third in the preseason Big 12 poll. But injuries played a major role, like the season-ending knee injury to preseason all-conference center Sagaba Konate during nonconference play.
But they played well on Wednesday, dominating the boards for a 46-36 advantage. The Mountaineers scored 17 second-chance points.
“Winning is kind of relief,” West Virginia coach Bob Huggins said. “Losing is like a near death experience. I’m relieved.”
Lamont West’s 15 points led West Virginia. Brady Manek had 22 for the seventh-seeded Sooners, who arrived at the tournament confident about their NCAA Tournament chances.
The Sooners (19-13) have accomplished enough become a strong at-large candidate. Oklahoma, seeded seventh, suffered a five-game losing streak in Big 12 play but rallied to win five of their final seven in the regular season.
The Mountaineers need to win the Big 12 event and earn the league’s automatic qualifier to reach the 68-team field.
“I hope we’re in,” James said. “We’ve worked so hard to get to this point. It’s going to be stress for a couple of days.”