By John Shinn
The Norman Transcript
PHILADELPHIA — Oklahoma’s trip to the NCAA tournament for the first time in four years turned out to be brief. The 10th-seeded Sooners fell, 70-55 to seventh-seeded San Diego State on Friday night in the South Region’s second round at Wells Fargo Arena.
The same issues that caused OU (20-12) to slump at the end of the regular season and the Big 12 tournament rode along with it to Philadelphia.
OU’s guards couldn’t make a jump shot for the third straight game. It was 5 for 21 from 3-point range. Two of the makes were by forward Romero Osby. The rest of the team was 3 for 18.
“It’s just one of those things that it didn’t go our way. I mean, my teammates we’re always in the gym getting up extra shots, so it wasn’t a case of work ethic. But that’s basketball,” Osby said.
Osby was the dominant force the Sooners needed him to be. He scored a game-high 22 points and pulled down eight rebounds. But there was no second option.
Foul trouble plagued the Sooners throughout the game. Guards Steven Pledger, Je’lon Hornbeak and Buddy Hield all picked up two in the first half.
Pledger’s second foul came midway through the second half and less than 30 seconds after finally connecting on a 3-point attempt.
“We’re much better when Steve is making shots. Take a look at our stretches where we’ve played well and shot it well as a group. Certainly Steve is a very good shooter, so we need him making shots,” OU coach Lon Kruger said. “But foul trouble kind of got him on the bench early tonight, then he played a little bit with two in the first half, then came back and got a couple in the second half. But yeah, we need him making shots for sure.”
Pledger didn’t (1 for 8). Forward Amath M’Baye finished with eight points and four rebounds, but was 4 for 10. Hornbeak and Hield were both 2 for 5
That quartet played the bulk of OU’s minutes and we’re a combined 10 for 31.
Osby was 9 for 15, but the Sooners needed more than one offensive threat to scare the Aztecs (23-10).
They advance to face 15th-seeded Florida Gulf Coast, which stunned second-seeded Georgetown because it was able to get some 3-pointers to fall.
San Diego State’s Jamaal Franklin scored 21 points and was 2 for 3 from 3-point range. James Rahon came off the bench to added 17. He was 2 for 4 from beyond the arc.
“San Diego State has terrific guards and you know they’re going to come out here and shoot,” M’Baye said. “We’ve just got to do a better job at it, I guess. They were shooting, it was falling. It was our fault. There’s nothing you can say about it.”
The defining stretch came midway in the second half. OU led by as many as nine points in the first half and were up 33-31 at halftime.
With 10:41 to go, the game was tied.
San Diego State closed it out with a 20-7 run. The Aztecs had five different players score during that final stretch.
The Sooners got five from Osby and a dunk from M’Baye with 85 seconds left.
“Well, when you get beat, you’re not doing enough. I thought obviously Ro did — battled it,” Kruger said. “Statistically other guys didn’t shoot the ball as well as we need to beat good basketball teams.”