- Associated Press - Saturday, March 12, 2016

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) - Buddy Hield thought his half-court heave had beaten the buzzer, and the Oklahoma star bolted into the crowd, wading several rows deep to celebrate a victory over West Virginia with his adoring fans.

The Mountaineers weren’t so sure.

More importantly, neither were the officials.

They huddled around the video monitors to review the final shot, ultimately deciding it left Hield’s finger tips a fraction of a second too late. They waved it off, allowing the ninth-ranked Mountaineers to escape with a 69-67 victory over the sixth-ranked Sooners in the Big 12 semifinals Friday night.

“I thought it was good so I went and celebrated,” Hield said. “The gym thought it was good, too.”



They usually are for Hield, the league’s player of the year. But after struggling with his shot and finishing with just six points, having his heave waved off was just the final letdown.

“Very heartbreaking,” he said. “It’s a tough loss.”

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 to Hield for the game’s final shot.

“It was like a movie. They have the camera on the main character the whole time,” Carter said later, sitting alone in the Mountaineers’ locker room. “Championship game, it’s going to be a tough game - main character makes the last shot. So when he made that I was like, ‘Is this possible?’

“When I saw the replay,” he added, “I was like, ‘Nah, that didn’t count.’”

Now, the Mountaineers get to play top-ranked Kansas for the title Saturday night.

“It’s like I told those guys: ‘OK, we won. It’s a win against a great, great team,” Mountaineers coach Bob Huggins said. “But we came to win. We didn’t come to play tomorrow. We came to win tomorrow.”

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.

“It was kind of a crazy game in a lot of ways,” Kruger said. “Came up a little bit short.”

TIP-INS

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.

UP NEXT

Oklahoma begins preparing for the NCAA Tournament.

West Virginia plays for its first Big 12 Tournament title.

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