KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) – No. 9 West Virginia escaped with a 69-67 victory over sixth-ranked Oklahoma when Sooners star Buddy Hield’s half-court shot that banked in was ruled a fraction of a second late in the Big 12 semifinals Friday night.
Jevon Carter scored 26 points to lead the Mountaineers (26-7), but it was Jaysean Paige whose pullup jumper over Isaiah Cousins gave them the lead back with 11.1 seconds left in the game.
Christian James missed a potential go-ahead layup at the other end and the Sooners (25-7) fouled with 1.8 seconds left. They got another chance when West Virginia’s Jonathan Holton only made the second of two free throws, and they quickly got the ball in the hands of the Big 12 player of the year.
Hield, who had struggled all game, took a couple of dribbles and let loose his heave, and it banked in as the Sooners poured off the bench and into the first few rows of the crowd to celebrate.
Meanwhile, the game officials huddled at the video monitors and reviewed the shot. Replays showed that it had left Hield’s finger tips a breath after the game ended, and they waived it off as the Mountaineers ran over to where the Sooners had celebrated and began leaping on the courtside tables.
It will be Bob Huggins’ boys who play No. 1 Kansas for the title Saturday night.
Hield finished with six points, one night after pouring in 39 in a victory over Iowa State – only the second time in his last 60 games that the high-scoring senior has failed to reach double-digits.
Isaiah Cousins led the Sooners with 15 points and seven assists. James had a career-best 13 points, Ryan Spangler added 12 points and Jordan Woodard had 11 as they tried to make up for the absence of their star.
Hield didn’t score until a pair of free throws with a minute left in the first half as the Mountaineers double- and triple-teamed him. In fact, he wound up missing his first five shots.
West Virginia extended its 30-29 halftime lead in the opening minutes of the second half, and it was Carter who predictably did most of the damage. After hitting four 3s in the first half, the sophomore guard knocked down two more in rapid succession to make it 44-36 with about 15 minutes remaining.
Hield finally knocked down his first field-goal, a 3-pointer with 9:39 left in the game, but Paige and the Mountaineers kept harassing him into mistakes that prevented him from catching fire.
It was the rest of the Sooners who finally did that.
Cousins began a 12-0 run by knocking down a 3-pointer and hitting a pair of free throws, and James finished it with two 3s and his own foul shots. The final 3 from just in front of his coach Lon Kruger gave Oklahoma a 62-61 lead with 2:52 left – its first since of the second half.
Tarik Phillip’s three-point play gave West Virginia the lead back, and Cousins connected on his third 3-pointer and James added a pair of free throws, as the teams traded the lead down the stretch.
Oklahoma: Hield was 1 for 8 from the field. … The Sooners had a season-high 21 turnovers. … Oklahoma swept West Virginia in the regular season. … Spangler reached 1,000 points for his career.
West Virginia: Paige finished with 10 points. Devin Williams had nine points and 11 boards … The Mountaineers have not won a conference tournament since the Big East in 2010.
Oklahoma begins preparing for the NCAA Tournament.
West Virginia plays for its first Big 12 Tournament title.
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