PHILADELPHIA — A few minutes after Oklahoma’s season-ending 70-55 loss to San Diego State on Friday, an unaffiliated fan wondered aloud just how did Oklahoma manage to win 20 games?
The man had a point. The Sooners had just finished shooting 39.7 percent (23 for 58), could not buy a 3-pointer in the second half and only got to the free-throw line eight times in 40 minutes.
In truth, OU’s season ran like a three-act play. The last act was nothing but agony. The shooting woes over the final three games — losses to TCU, Iowa State in the Big 12 tournament and to the Aztecs — were a virus OU could not shake.
“It’s really frustrating,” senior guard Steven Pledger said. “We were hot and then something happened. I don’t know what it was, but we just stopped hitting shots.”
The reason why OU (20-12) was in the NCAA tournament for the first time since 2009 was its ability to make the shots that didn’t fall over the last three games. It was one of the Big 12 Conference’s better offensive teams, averaging 73.6 points per game during league play and shooting 45.1 percent.
Breaking the 70-point barrier might have been enough to keep playing beyond Friday’s game at Wells Fargo Center. It probably would have been enough to get a better seed than No. 10 in the NCAA tournament South Region.
The postseason, however, always rewards teams that play their best at the end and punishes those who don’t.
“The timing for that was not good in this particular case for sure, when you’re finishing the season and going into tournament play,” OU coach Lon Kruger said. “… San Diego State does a good job defensively, and they forced some shots, and they deserve some credit even though we had some looks that didn’t go down. It was a combination of the two, us not making shots. Credit the defense for doing a good job. But yeah, the timing of not making shots was not good.”