Oklahoma basketball: Rhode Island outlasts Sooners in overtime for 83-78 win

PITTSBURGH, PA - MARCH 15: Jeff Dowtin
PITTSBURGH, PA - MARCH 15: Jeff Dowtin /

The Oklahoma basketball season, and likely the collegiate career of sensational freshman Trae Young, is over.

Some would say the Sooners’ season ended long before now, courtesy of a confounding second half of the season collapse.

Young scored 28 points and dished out seven assists, but that wasn’t enough to avoid an 11th consecutive Sooner road loss as No. 7-seeded Rhode Island held on in overtime for an 83-78 victory in the opening round of the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament.

There is a good news, bad news story line to this season-ending loss by Oklahoma. The Sooners played one if their best games in nearly two months – that’s the good news – but their best wasn’t good enough to complete the job as OU suffered its ninth loss in the last 11 games and its 11th consecutive loss away from the friendly confines of Lloyd Noble Center.

Young, who took only four first half shots and made all four of them, including two from three-point range, for 10 points was held scoreless for the first 13 minutes of the second half. He scored 17 points the rest of the way.

Oklahoma led the game from midway through the first half until just under the 10-minute mark in the second half, before a 10-2 Rhode Island run over just a couple of minutes shot the Rams out in front by seven, 59-52.

Young led a Sooner comeback in the final minutes and hit a pair of crucial free throws to tie the score with 14 seconds to go to send the game to overtime.

Rhode Island led by two, 76-74 with under a minute remaining in OT, and E.C. Matthews nailed the second of two overtime three-point shots to put the final dagger in Oklahoma’s traumatic season.

The Sooners used their height advantage early to get easy points in the paint and deny Rhode Island’s scoring ability in close at the basket. Oklahoma dominated the backboards with a plus-13 rebounding margin and capitalized with 22 second-chance points.

Oklahoma has played poor defensively all season, and they had defensive breakdowns in this game, but the Sooners were able to hold Rhode Island to 39-percent shooting. That is good enough to win most games, but Rhode Island was able to make shots when it counted most. The Rams also forced 14 Oklahoma turnovers and converted them into 17 points.

OU had every opportunity to win this game and spring the upset over No. 7 Rhode Island, but once again the Sooners’ shooting consistency let them down and they weren’t able to get the big stops defensively when they needed them. This has been the team’s big problem all season and the prime reason for the Sooners’ nightmare final two months of the season.

Besides Young’s 28 points, Jamuni McNeace was the only other Sooner in double figures with 14 to go along with 12 rebounds. Matthews led Rhode Island with 16 points. Fatts Russell had 15, Cyril Langvine 14 and Jared Terrell, the Rams’ leading scorer on the season contributed 13.

Now we can all put the 2017-18 Oklahoma basketball season behind us, wait till next year and sit back and watch how high the one-and-done Young will go in the NBA Draft.