Sooners rallied later to deliver heartbreak to the Tigers
LSU guard Tim Quarterman drove one last time Saturday afternoon into a forest of crimson jerseys, full speed and fearless, hoping for a game tying miracle basket or at least to draw a foul.
“I got to the basket, there was contact, there was no call, that’s just the way the game ended,” said Quarterman after Oklahoma’s Khadeem Lattin blocked Quarterman’s madcap dash trying to beat the buzzer, preserving a 77 75 victory by the No.1 Sooners after they trailed by as many as 14 points in the second half.
Granted, the Tigers, with 15 turnovers leading to 17 Oklahoma points and the Sooners outscoring LSU 17 11 in second chance points, could have played smarter.
And no team this season takes advantage of mistakes like Oklahoma, with Buddy Hield, the most automatic three point shooter on the planet not named Steph Curry.
Hield, a 6 foot 4 senior sniper, hit 7 of 10 threes in the second half and scored 21 of his 32 points in the final 20 minutes when the Sooners (18 2) came roaring back from a first half funk.
“Being the number one team in the country, you have a target on your back,” Hield said. “Coach (Lon Kruger) kept preaching, ‘Get stops.’ It was going to break at some point and when we got our chance we were going take advantage of it.
“Even though I started off missing the first two in the second half. Coach, my teammates, and Isaiah (Cousins), they found me good spots and I was able to knock down a good rate of shots.”
On OU’s game winning shot, Hield was more of a decoy on a screen for Cousins’ 10 footer with 4 seconds left.
“I was basically seeing what was Buddy’s man going to do,” Cousins said. “If he was going to show on the screen, then I was going throw it right back to Buddy, but he just stayed with Buddy, so I just thought a dribble pull up would be good.”
Whether it was from fatigue or the constant pressure of having to match the Sooners’ second half three point deluge they hit 9 of 15 to finish 14 of 29 for the game the Tigers went stagnant down the stretch.
“Oklahoma is a senior dominated team that did the things that were necessary to win the game coming down the stretch,” LSU coach Johnny Jones said. “When you’re playing a team like that, you can’t afford to make mistakes and open doors for them.”
As Oklahoma started scorching the nets, the Sooners shut off Ben Simmons, LSU’s fabulous frosh, who had 15 points and 9 rebounds yet only took one shot the last 10 minutes.
“”I thought our guys were a little bit more active and little bit more aggressive,” Oklahoma coach Kruger said. “He’s such a terrific player.”
The Sooners didn’t crack for a couple of reasons. They knew if they could string together some defensive stops that they had the firepower five different players hit threes to erase leads in a blink.
Also, Hield said the Sooners were used to playing in front of hostile crowds in Big 12 Conference play. But he apparently started preparing for the loud Tiger faithful several months ago by watching LSU football games on TV.
“I figured it was going to be loud just watching the football games,” said Hield, who added, “Leonard Fournette is a pretty good player.”
Hield was smart to prep for his visit to Baton Rouge, because the pregame atmosphere was everything you’d expect with a No. 1 ranked team walking in your house.
The LSU student section poured in when the PMAC doors opened 90 minutes before tipoff. Many of the students had camped in line overnight, but they survived with an assist from Jones, a former Tigers’ point guard, who delivered pizza, donuts and fresh shirts.
As the students situated, ESPN analyst Dick Vitale was a few feet away giving a TV camera crew his quick take on the Tigers’ chances of pulling off the upset.
“Simmons is a PTPer, but everybody has to chip in,” Vitale said in his usual effusive manner,
Across the court, LSU radio analyst and former standout Ricky Blanton stared at the Oklahoma season statistical sheet.
“(Jordan) Woodard is shooting 54.4 percent and Hield is 52.3, and that’s No. 1 and No. 2 in the nation,” Blanton said. “I have never seen that before. I don’t know if any of us have seen that before.”
With 15 NBA scouts in the stands, Blanton said there was plenty of pro talent on the floor to eyeball in a game of contrasting offensive strengths.
“Oklahoma’s got three pros (Hield, Ryan Spangler, Cousins) in this game and LSU has three (Simmons, Craig Victor, Quarterman),” Blanton said.
“Oklahoma is great on the perimeter and our strength is when we go inside. The best thing is we have nothing to lose and everything to gain.”
In the stands were LSU’s No. 2 and No. 6 all time leading scorers, Durand Macklin of the 1981 Final Four team, basketball Hall of Famer as well Bob Pettit’s teammate Ned Clark from the 1953 Final Four team, Fournette wearing his No. 7 jersey and, of course, former LSU coach Dale Brown, coach of the ’81 and ’86 Final Four teams.
Brown had to feel good looking at the crowd, packed to the PMAC roof. It was a throwback to Brown’s best seasons, with runs to the NCAA Tournament, creating an atmosphere that earned the arena the nickname “Deaf Dome.”