Sophomore Khadeem Lattin blocked a shot early Saturday afternoon and turned to the Oklahoma Sooners bench, flexing with both arms and sending the West Virginia home crowd into a fury in Morgantown, WV.
Less than two hours later, his primal yell and two-handed dunk with four seconds to play against the No. 10 Mountaineers sent those same fans heading for the exits. Facing the threat of its first three-game losing streak in more than four years, Oklahoma pulled energy – and offense – from Lattin early and managed to hold on for its biggest road win of the season.
Potentially saving a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament for the time being and moving into sole possession of second place in the Big 12 Conference, Oklahoma pulled out a 76-62 victory despite potentially falling deeper into it shooting slump.
“I had the energy that I knew our team needed,” Lattin said to reporters after the game.
The third-ranked Sooners (21-5, 9-5 Big 12) didn’t knock down their first jump shot until 8:10 remained in the first half. During the past two games, that would have equaled a loss or at least a halftime deficit. But on Saturday, Oklahoma was still out in front thanks to defense and energy from Lattin that turned into points.
Through the first 11:50 of the Sooners’ second true road win against a ranked team in the last 21 games, Oklahoma had eight fast-break points, 14 points in the paint, seven offensive rebounds, seven forced turnovers, seven points off turnovers, five blocks, five steals and five assists.
Oklahoma started the game 0-for-11 outside of the paint and even had a 2-for-16 stretch that extended into the final five minutes of the first half. The Sooners were shooting just 29 percent against the Mountaineers, who lost for the third time in four games.
"We had a lot of good looks in the first half to open the ball game," Oklahoma coach Lon Kruger said. ". . . It was another one of those games. We got off to a good start, we attacked the rim a few times there early ot score. We got a few balls early out in transition. They gave us a chance to score early."
By limiting No. 10 West Virginia to zero transition points through the first 16 minutes and only committing two first-half turnovers, Oklahoma had its first halftime lead since Feb. 2 against TCU – a span of four games – after never trailing at halftime in any game of the non-conference schedule.
"Every game is important when you are a couple games behind, as we are," Kruger said. ". . . We have to do what we can to take care of business moving forward. The last two weeks of conference play coming up and everyone is going to be really tough."
Lattin finished with nine points, 13 rebounds, six blocks and three steals. Buddy Hield scored 29 points, outscoring the West Virginia starting five. He moved into fifth place all-time in program scoring history and surpassed the 2,000-point mark. Hield set the OU single-season 3-point record late in the first half, as well.
Oklahoma turned the ball over nine times against the nation’s best turnover-producing team and out-rebounded West Virginia by nine. The Mountaineers came into the game atop the Big 12 and ninth in the nation in rebounding margin.
In a game of runs, the Sooners came away with the last one. After West Virginia, which lost at home for only the second time this season, tied the game at 52 with 7:45 to play, Oklahoma scored nine-straight points.
Dinjiyl Walker snapped three-minute scoring drought with a 3-pointer – his first in almost two weeks, and Hield followed with one of his own after a Lattin free throw. The Mountaineers chipped away at the lead but never closed the gap in the final four minutes as Oklahoma finally showed a killer instinct, something that had been missing in the last two games.
It brought a little life – and a little fun – back to the Sooners.
"Each of us have to do more, you know, do a little extra," Kruger said.