It was another up-and-down performance for the Sooners, but a win is a win and in the NCAA Tournament that means Oklahoma basketball advances and lives to fight another day.
Leading by four points, 69-65, with under four minutes to go, the Sooners closed out game on a 13-3 run to put away the upset-minded Roadrunners of Cal State-Bakersfield, the West Region’s No. 15 seed.
With the win, No. 2-seeded Oklahoma moves on to play on Sunday against No. 10 seed Virginia Commonwealth, which defeated Oregon State 75-67.
The Oklahoma backcourt trio of Buddy Hield, Isaiah Cousins and Jordan Woodard contributed 55 of the Sooners’ 82 total points.
Cal State-Bakersfield, coached by former Oklahoma assistant Rod Barnes (2006-07) jumped out to a quick 8-0 advantage in the early going of the game before OU caught the Roadrunners at 10. The game remained fairly close until the closing minutes of the opening half, when the Sooners opened up a 12-point margin that was cut to seven going into the intermission.
The Roadrunners lived up to their name, making several runs at the higher-seeded Sooners in the second half, demonstrating to the highly partisan Oklahoma crowd looking on at Chesapeake Energy Arena in Oklahoma City that they had not traveled all that way to give up and roll over to the heavily favored Sooners.
Cal State-Bakersfield seemed to take a page out of the Oklahoma State playbook when the Cowboys played the Sooners this season, slowing the game down and taking down the shot clock on most of their 0ffensive possessions.
Unfortunately, the 14 turnovers by the Roadrunners cost them dearly, leading to 20-plus transition points by Oklahoma.
Seniors Aly Ahmed and Kevin Mays led Cal State-Bakersfield in scoring, with 16 and 14 points, respectively.
What Went Right for Oklahoma
- The Sooners had a good shooting game – although at times it didn’t seem like it – hitting 28 of their 55 shots from the field for 50.9 percent. They also found the mark from three-point range, burying 11 of 20 (55 percent), with Hield and Cousins making good on three three-balls apiece.
- Hield, who had just six points his last time out in a loss to West Virginia in the Big 12 Tournament, scored 27 points to lead Oklahoma.
- Oklahoma had seven steals in the game, including two each by Hield and Woodard.
What went wrong for Oklahoma in the Game
- The final score did not reflect it, but for the most part Cal State-Bakersfield outplayed OU in the game. The roadrunners seemed a little quicker to the ball and they did a better job rebounding than the Sooners. Thirteen of Cal State’s rebounds in the game were on the offensive end.
- For the second game in a row – and something that has become somewhat of a pattern for Oklahoma, especially in the latter half of the season – the Sooners did not handle the ball very well and had trouble in the early going solving the Roadrunners’ defensive pressure.
- OU, usually a pretty good free-throw-shooting team, fared poorly at the charity stripe in its opening NCAA Tournament game. The Sooners were a poor 15 of 25 from the free-throw line for 60 percent. They could have put this game out of range much earlier had they shot better from the free-throw line in the first half.