The last game for Oklahoma's seniors at Lloyd Noble Center was christened with the Sooners' 20th win of the season. Four of the five of those seniors led OU past West Virginia 83-70 Wednesday night.
Each of them showed the unique attributes that brought them to Oklahoma and have largely contributed to the resurgence of a program that suffered three consecutive losing seasons. Their first winning season also will be their last, and Oklahoma men's basketball coach Lon Kruger couldn't be more proud of them.
"I'm happy for the players and the seniors especially," Kruger said. "They've been here awhile. They've hung in there. They've really invested a lot and represented well and all are going to graduate, and I'm really happy for them."
SCOOPHD: OKLAHOMA DEFEATS WEST VIRGINIA 83-70
Senior point guard Sam Grooms dropped 10 of Oklahoma's 15 dimes in the game and added eight points. Senior forward Romero Osby scored a game-high 26 points on 9-of-14 shooting with six boards.
"Last game here, it's kind of bittersweet because it's the last game and we got a win," Osby said. "It was great. We appreciate all the support and it's been a long time coming, and I'm just happy we could get a win on our last night here."
Senior 2-guard Steven Pledger continued to show he's found his stroke over the last month of the season with 23 points, 15 of them coming from beyond the arc. He, like Andrew Fitzgerald, have endured the most of any player on the Sooners' roster.
"It meant a lot," Pledger said of his career at Lloyd Noble. "I've been here all four years. Been through the ups and downs, but it meant a lot to me."
The victory also stamped the end to a regular season that saw OU (20-9, 11-6 Big 12) lose just two games in Lloyd Noble Center and amass an impressive 8-1 record at home against Big 12 competition.
With West Virginia (13-17, 6-11 Big 12) down just 68-64 and showing signs of fighting back, Fitzgerald mounted a 5-0 run by himself. They'd be the only points he scored in the game.
"That was big," Pledger said. "I know he has it in him. Everybody knows he has it in him."
Oklahoma never trailed in the win and started the game with a 10-1 scoring run that led to a 39-28 halftime lead. Osby scored 16 points in the first 20 minutes on 5-of-6 shooting.
He was given early opportunities to attack the basket by Grooms who notched six of Oklahoma's seven assists in the half to go along with his six points in the half. When the game slowed to a crawl during the middle of the half, the Sooners made sure to clean up the boards and earned a 20-13 rebounding advantage.
The Mountaineers' Deniz Kilici proved to be the visiting team's only consistent source of offense in the half. He challenged Osby in the post and proved formidable as the only other player in the game to score double digit points in the half with 12. He finished with 20 points.
By the 10:46 mark of the first half, the Sooners had already accumulated a 17-point lead, and, though they let it slip, the outcome never seemed in doubt.
Now not only are the Sooners a favorite to make the NCAA tournament but they're battling for a No. 3 seed in next week's Big 12 tournament in Kansas City, Mo.
After Iowa State dispatched No. 13 Oklahoma State in Ames, Iowa, moments before tipoff in Norman, the Cowboys' third seed could be in jeopardy. A Sooners' win on Saturday at Texas Christian and a Cowboys loss to No. 9 Kansas State would allow the Sooners to sneak into that coveted third spot.
Like his coach, Osby isn't looking past TCU or toward the NCAA tournament. He's sticking to the mantra Kruger has preached all season long: One game at a time, one win at a time.
"As a fan, you're always looking and trying to find what's going on as far as that, but as a player you just gotta stay focused on the next game," he said. "We're excited that we might have an opportunity to get there, but we know our work isn't done."