Almost lost in a state of disbelief as No. 3 Oklahoma was the victim of an upset – maybe only seed-wise – in the NCAA Tournament late Friday night, Spangler didn’t tug at his jersey. He didn’t throw his arms up or lower his head.
He just walked to the hand-shake line, ready to congratulate the seventh-seeded Spartans.
Teammate TaShawn Thomas did the same. His shoulders feel ever so slightly as his looked up at the scoreboard, taking in something he didn’t like.
Michigan State 62, Oklahoma 58.
Thomas told himself that he wasn’t going to cry, but at that point, it hit him that he had just played his final collegiate basketball game.
“It hurt,” Thomas said. “I told myself I wasn’t going to cry, . . . but tears started coming out. As soon as I heard the buzzer and looked at the score, I was just like, ‘Man, this was my last game. I’m not going to play college ball anymore.’”
After a season in which Oklahoma won its first NCAA Tournament game since 2009, helping coach Lon Kruger become the first coach to lead five teams to a victory in the tournament and four teams to the Sweet 16, Oklahoma (24-11) was sent home earlier than it expected.
“We wanted to get to the championship game,” Oklahoma point guard Jordan Woodard said. “We came up short.”
During the previous two NCAA Tournament games, Oklahoma had used an early surge to hold the lead for much of the game – holding onto momentum and pushing back every run made against them.
The Sooners held the lead against Michigan State until 9:26 remained in the game and held the momentum until the final five minutes, when the Spartans hit the offensive glass hard and scored four points in the final two minutes on second-chance opportunities.
“It was another one of those games where we had control, took control of the game early, and something just got away from us,” Oklahoma freshman forward Khadeem Lattin said. “It hurts. It’s been like that a few times this year.”
At least Friday night was the last time this year.
There was no great swing of momentum that took Oklahoma out of the game or any big run.
Despite being ahead by as many as 10 points in the first half, Oklahoma never seemed to put away Michigan State, leaving the Spartans in the game and with a persistent chance to come back.
Ultimately, Michigan State did when Oklahoma went 12-for-44 from the field after an 8-for-11 start.
“Throughout the season, we had trouble,” Spangler said. “Once we got the lead, we’ve gone away from what made us successful. I think we got the lead (Friday), and we started taking bad shots.”
Guard Buddy Hield, who finished with a team-high 21 points, took some bad shots and some good shots, too. He was about the only one.
The Sooners shot 36.4 percent from the field, including 7-for-23 in the second half. Isaiah Cousins scored just five points as Oklahoma was held to its lowest scoring output in six weeks.
“We truly believed that we’d win (Friday),” Spangler said. “I think for 35 minutes of the game, we played to keep the lead. In the last five minutes, we didn’t play the way to finish a game off.”