No. 21 Oklahoma lost last night to West Virginia. The Sooners held a three-point lead heading into the final minute of regulation and lost to WVU in overtime 91-86. It was OU’s sixth loss of the season. But was it the Sooners’ WORST loss of the season?
If you’re familiar with Betteridge’s law, then you know where I’m going with this, but I’m going there nonetheless.
WVU averages about 79 points per game, but Eron Harris came up with three when the Mountaineers were needed them most. He tied the game at 81-81 with 24 seconds left and led the Mountaineers to victory in Morgantown. Harris scored 28 points and was one of three WVU players who scored 17 points or more.
“He made big shots,” OU coach Lon Kruger said. “Terrific player, terrific shooter. We didn’t slow him much in the second half.”
In fact, 65 of West Virginia’s 91 points came from just three players, none of who the Sooners could keep under wraps for any length of time. One of those players was point guard Juwan Staten. Staten averages better than 18 points per game and is the Big 12’s best assist man.
He’s good for about six dimes a game and is the focal point of WVU’s offense. He carried the Mountaineers until late in the game and knew enough to get out of the way when Harris caught fire like he was playing the life-size version of “NBA Jams.”
Following the game, I wanted to find out just how good Staten was compared to the rest of the country’s top assist men. Turns out, he’s inside the top 20 (No. 18) when it comes to assists per game and just outside the top 20 (No. 22) in assist-to-turnover ratio. That’s pretty good, and I think most coaches in the country would be happy with those numbers, but they’re not as good as Louisiana Tech’s Kenneth Smith.
As you probably know, the La. Tech Bulldogs are the only other team to take OU into overtime, and they, like WVU, beat OU in overtime. What’s more impressive is they pulled off that win on the road. They outscored a high-scoring team 102-98 in Norman.
On a night where OU only hit five 3-pointers, La. Tech hit 10. When OU got 20 points out of Ryan Spangler and 26 points out of Cam Clark, the Bulldogs got 22 out of Raheem Appleby and 31 out Alex Hamilton. Those 31 points are the most by any La. Tech player this year. Smith who scored just seven points on 1-of-7 shooting, but he dropped nine dimes in that game.
Smith averages an assist for every point he scores — 7.4 points, 7.5 boards a game. He’s responsible for more than 40 percent of La. Tech’s assists.
Only Jason Brickman at LIU-Brooklyn averages more assists with 10 per game. He’s responsible for about 54 percent of his team’s assists. But LIU-Brooklyn is 7-14 and probably won’t be playing in the National Invitational Tournament let alone the NCAA tournament.
Three of the top 10 scoring teams in Division I play Big 12 basketball: Iowa State, Oklahoma State and Oklahoma. ISU ranks fourth in the country in scoring while OSU ranks eighth and OU is 10th.
The Bulldogs are fifth in the country in scoring — 84.7 points per game — and has scored at least 100 points four times this season. One of those games was a 126-52 stomping of Longwood.
What’s interesting about that game is no La. Tech player scored more than 21 points and every Bulldog who entered the game scored at least one point. 29 of their 42 total field goals were assisted. Only 2,502 people saw that game in Thomas Assembly Center in Ruston, La.
That’s the thing about schools like La. Tech. They’re small and play in conferences where getting more than one team in the NCAA tournament is about as easy as winning it. The Bulldogs happen to play in Conference USA where they aren’t even the best team. Or the second-best team.
They’re third in the C-USA standings behind a Southern Miss squad that’s only lost three games all season and a UTEP team that’s lost only one conference game this season. There’s still time left for La. Tech to make up the ground between itself and the Golden Eagles in the regular season title race. Still, it looks like the only way they’re dancing is if they win the C-USA tourney.
La. Tech is ranked No. 80 in the RPI, and its only signature win came against the Sooners. The only time the Bulldogs played against a ranked team was two weeks before they played Lloyd Noble.
At Chesapeake Energy Arena, then-No. 7 Oklahoma State held La. Tech to a season low for points and won 70-55. Smith was held in check with just six points and three assists while Le’Bryan Nash recorded a double-double — 22 points, 10 boards. And it was just as bad as it seemed for La. Tech.
“I thought we’d be more competitive to be honest, but I just think that we struggled so much from an offensive standpoint,” said Louisiana Tech coach Mike White. “(We) had a lot of droughts offensively, couldn’t really get into a rhythm.”
Only two of OU’s losses have come against non-ranked teams, and Kansas is the only other team to beat the Sooners at home. For a team looking for high seeding in the NCAA tourney heading into the final weeks of the season, losing at West Virginia and at home against La. Tech is bad.
However, WVU ranks 69th in the RPI and is riding a three-game win streak. The Mountaineers are tied for third in the Big 12 standings and need to win six of their next eight to get to 20 wins. With an 18-5 record, La. Tech is two games from 20 wins and is perhaps the worst loss on OU’s schedule. La. Tech was a bad loss — and OU’s worst this year — but as bad losses go it’s pretty good.