Two teams jumped on the press table in celebration Friday night at the Sprint Center.
First was Oklahoma, believing Buddy Hield’s shot from behind midcourt had given the Sooners an incredible triumph in the Big 12 Tournament semifinal.
But did Hield, the All-American who had been held in check the entire game, get the three-point shot off in time? He and the Sooners thought so. As soon as the ball banked in, Hield leaped on two rows of press tables, and about eight rows in the stands, into the arms of cheering Sooners fans as officials gathered at the scorer’s table.
The ruling: No good.
That touched off a counter celebration, on the same press table.
The final: West Virginia 69, Oklahoma 67.
The Mountaineers will meet Kansas in the Big 12 title game on Saturday. But they won’t soon forget this one.
“That was just, you know, March Madness,” Mountaineers forward Devin Williams said.
And sadness for Oklahoma, which had fought back from a 12-point deficit with seven minutes remaining. But the Sooners found themselves down by two after Jonathan Holden made the second of two free throws with 1.8 seconds remaining.
The inbounds pass came to Hield, and he let it fly from about 55 feet.
“You sure don’t want to foul him,” West Virginia coach Bob Huggins said. “So we take our chances.”
Euphoria broke out on the Oklahoma sideline when the ball banked in. But West Virginia players didn’t form a handshake line. Some of them were questioning the shot as soon as it splashed in. Hield’s fingertips were still on the ball when the red light behind the backboard went off.
Hield and some teammates were no sooner out of the stands when the Mountaineers started their own celebration even while the officials huddled at the clock.
The wave-off meant the game winner had been scored by Jaysean Paige on a stepback 16-footer for a 68-67 edge with 11 seconds remaining.
The Sooners trailed 59-47 when they started their comeback behind the play of freshman Christian James, who entered the game averaging 2.2 points and hadn’t scored a field goal in the last six games.
But his corner three-pointer gave Oklahoma its first lead of the half 62-61 with 2:55 remaining, and his two free throws at the 1:47 mark put Oklahoma ahead 67-64.
“I had never been out there on that big a stage,” James said.
With a chance to extend the lead, Ryan Spangler missed two free throws, air-balling the second, and Paige answered with a pair of free throws with 54 seconds remaining.
Isaiah Cousins missed a forced short jumper, and that set up Paige’s final field goal.
Had Hield’s bucket counted, it would have erased what was shaping up as his least productive game. He finished with a season-low six points, the target of intense defensive pressure.
Daxter Miles Jr. often guarded Hield, but the Mountaineers used a team effort to hold down the nation’s second-leading scorer, who scored 39 points the night before against Iowa State.
“That’s the best I’ve been defended my whole career,” Hield said. “They were talking to me, saying they weren’t going to let me score. They really meant it.”
West Virginia’s pressure flustered Oklahoma’s guard-oriented offense throughout the game.
The Sooners had trouble getting the ball in bounds, crossing midcourt, and starting their offense in the frontcourt.
Once, Cousins had to call a timeout near midcourt to avoid a turnover. When the Sooners came out of the break, Cousins found himself in the exact same spot and coughed up the possession.
Not until the final minutes did Oklahoma made some headway against West Virginia’s defense. Hield finished with one basket.
“I don’t know how to stop him,” Huggins said. “The only thing I know is it’s hard to score if you don’t have the ball. We did everything we could not to let him get his hands on the ball.”
West Virginia lost control of a ragged first half but managed a 30-29 lead. The Mountaineers regretted that it wasn’t more.
Pressure defense hounded Oklahoma into 11 first-half turnovers and curtailed one of the Big 12’s most prolific offenses. At one point, the Sooners committed turnovers on four straight possessions.
Jordan Woodard, with 11 points, and Spangler’s seven kept it close for the Sooners early.
West Virginia led by as many as eight in the half, but couldn’t increase the advantage, piling up mistakes of its own.
Hield missed his first three shots and played listlessly before the break. But his first points gave Oklahoma a 29-28 lead with 1:02 remaining in the half.
Jevon Carter was doing his Hield impersonation early. Carter, a sophomore guard, hit his first five shots — four from behind the arc — and scored 14 of the Mountaineers’ first 20 points.
Carter finished with 26 and was part of the group effort on Hield that last all 40 minutes, and not a faction of a second more.