Oklahoma basketball: Javian McCollum's 3-point dime may have saved Sooners' postseason

William Purnell-USA TODAY Sports

As the ball left Javian McCollum's hand in the deep corner at Gallagher-Iba Arena with just over one second to go in overtime on Saturday, the Oklahoma basketball postseason prospects hung perilously in the balance.

The Sooners were engaged in a closely contested game with their in-state rival Oklahoma State. Despite the noticeable difference in the season records of the two teams, the momentum coming into the game was definitely on the side of the Cowboys, who also had the wind of a raucous, sellout home crows at their back.

Oklahoma State had won its last two games entering the Saturday rivalry showdown and was back home hoping for a third consecutive victory. On the other side, the Sooners were battling injuries and coming off back-to-back losses to top 12-ranked opponents Baylor and Kansas. And with an incredibly difficult schedule to close out the regular season, Oklahoma could ill afford to lose to Oklahoma State

A loss in Stillwater -- in what possibly could be the final game in what had been 116 years of Bedlam basketball -- and with games scheduled against two top-10 opponents (No. 6 Iowa State and new No, 1 Houston) immediately thereafter, would certainly deal a serious blow to Oklahoma's NCAA Tournament chances.

Oklahoma State had led for over 30 minutes on Saturday, and led by as many as 11 points right before halftime, before the Sooners battled back in the late going and forged a 72-72 tie at the end of regulation. Oklahoma State had a chance to win the game when Javon Small was fouled with four seconds left in regulation and could have sealed the win with one or two free throws, but he missed the front end of a one-and-one opportunity.

The rebound from the missed free throw was battled for and knocked out of bounds off Oklahoma's Sam Godwin. That gave the Cowboys one last opportunity, but a desperation shot from deep in the corner missed badly, sending the game to an extra session.

The Sooner scored first in overtime on a field goal in the paint by Milos Uzan and led most of the way in overtime. The lead changed just once, on a three-pointer by OSU's John-Michael Wright with under 90 seconds to go to give the Cowboys an 82-81 lead. It stayed that way for the next 35 seconds. Jalon Moore grabbed the rebound off an Oklahoma State missed shot close in with 23 seconds remaining. OU head coach Porter Moser called a timeout after the ball crossed the mid-line to set up the final play.

Moser said, in his postgame press conference, that they had set up a couple of actions depending on how Oklahoma State came out defensively. If they came out in man-to-man defense, as they had earlier in the game, the plan was for McCollum to get the ball and drive downhill to the basket and either make the layup or draw a foul.

The Cowboys defended the play perfectly, though, denying McCollum a path to the basket, forcing him to his left and into the left corner. As the game clock hit the two-second mark, McCollum was forced to put up a contested shot deep in the corner. The shot was so deep in the corner that when he got up on his toes to release the shot, had his heel touched back down before the ball left his hand, he would have been ruled out of bounds and the game would have been over with Oklahoma State winning 82-81.

There, of course, was an official review to make sure that the shot had left his hand before time expired. but video replay confirmed that the ball was well into its final descent and about to beautifully tickle through the nylon as the clock hit triple zeroes.

If you were an Oklahoma State fan, it was as if, in that split second that the ball passed through the basket, someone had ripped your heart out. Conversely, the Oklahoma basketball season was brought back from near death and given new life.

What appeared to many of us as a desperation shot that miraculously found its way to the target -- perhaps aided by a bit of Sooner Magic -- may not have been as miraculous as it seemed. McCollum's former coach at Siena College, Carmen Maciariello, was watching the OU-Oklahoma State game while on the Siena bus on its way to a team shootaround. He saw his former player knock down the winning shot, a shot he had seen McCollum make many times before.

"The stepback, going to his left," Maciariello told Colton Sulley of The Oklahoman newspaper after the game on Saturday. "His patented move."

That is the Siena transfers go-to shot. He practices it every day in practice. And on Saturday, at the most opportune time, all that practice made perfect with a laser game-winner from the perimeter.

McCollum was asked after the game what it felt like to hit the game-winning shot as the buzzer sounded.

"The feeling was great. To know that my teammates and coaches trust me in that moment. But we had a couple of big plays before that. It was a whole bunch adding up to that. I just hit the shot."

Javian McCollum

The come from behind win over Oklahoma State gives the Sooners a sweep of the regular-season series, but more importantly, it snaps a two-game losing skid and gives them their 19th win of the season. OU may need at least one more win out of its four remaining games to assure a berth in the NCAA Tournament.

The chances of achieving that are much better now than having to win two of their remaining four games against the likes of Iowa State, Houston, Cincinnati and a road game at Texas to close out the regular season.

Let's just say, the conversation today would have been much different had that shot not gone down on Saturday, It did and that's that...a giant confidence buildier heading down the homestretch of the season.