NIT: Depleted Sooners fall short at Michigan

Oklahoma guard Drew Lavender reaches in on Michigan center Graham Brown during the first half the OU's season-ending 63-52 loss Monday night in Ann Arbor, Mich. Freshman forward Brandon Foust led the Sooners with 14 points. The Sooners end the 2003-04 season at 20-11. (AP Photo/Carlos Osorio)

Oklahoma's season-ending loss to Michigan in the second round of the NIT pretty much typified the Sooners' season.

The same injuries, poor shooting, youthful mistakes and foul trouble that plagued Oklahoma through most of the season all played huge factors in their 63-52 loss Monday night in Ann Arbor.

Faced with just eight available players going into the game, the Sooners were dealt an even bigger blow when sophomore guard De'Angelo Alexander was knocked out of the game with a separated shoulder late in the first half.

But despite the loss of Alexander and facing a 49-40 deficit with 6:28 to go, the Sooners battled back with a 7-0 run, but finally ran out of gas after Lawrence McKenzie's potential go-ahead three-point shot with just under three minutes to go drew nothing but air.

"I'm not sure if we played another game, we'd end up with five players out on the floor," said Oklahoma head coach Kelvin Sampson. "This team had every reason in the world to hang their heads, but we came back in this game and got ahead in the second half. With 2:47 left, we are only down two. That is where De'Angelo would have been nice to have out there during that stretch, but this team has never quit."

Overall, the Sooners shot only 35.8 percent from the field and were a dreadful 5-for-21 from 3-point range. The Sooners also committed 15 turnovers and 23 fouls, which led to 21 points from the free throw line for the Wolverines. Michigan was only called for 13 fouls.

But it was another positive look into what the future holds for Oklahoma freshman forward Brandon Foust. The 6-foot-6 forward from Columbus, Ohio, starting just his second game as a Sooner, led OU in scoring for the second straight game with 14 points. In fact, it was back-to-back tip-ins by Foust that gave the Sooners a 34-32 lead early in the second half

"Brandon is going to be a special player. It's been a coming out party for him," said Sampson on Foust's last two starts. "This will give him a lot of confidence going into the offseason. You can see his potential — as you can with all our freshmen. Drew (Lavender) didn't have his best game tonight. Lawrence (McKenzie) did some good things. I thought Larry Turner played very well. But you have to make shots, that's what it comes down to.

Lavender, who was OU's leading scorer coming into the game, finished with just two points on 1-of-9 shooting. McKenzie added 10, but was only 2-for-7 from 3-point range and committed three offensive fouls.

Senior guard Jason Detrick, the last remaining player from OU's Final Four team in 2002, finished with nine points in his last game in a Sooner uniform.

"Jason was good all the way around this year," Sampson said. "He was good in the locker room, he was good in practice. He was a great influence, he got along with everybody. Jason is a good person and has a good heart. We will miss him. He played on a Final Four team, part of two Big 12 Championship teams and was a part of three 20-win seasons. I'm just very proud of Jason."

With the loss the Sooners finish the season at 20-11, but the future is bright with four starters returning from the end of the season (Lavender, Foust, Turner and Alexander) next season to go with Kevin Bookout, Lawrence McKenzie, Jaison Williams, juco All-American forward Taj Gray and pre recruit Longar Longar.

"We will go into the offseason with our heads held high and our spirits up," Sampson said. "These kids know they will be competing for the top of the Big 12 next year. I'm very proud of this team and what they have accomplished.

"We've had as much success as anybody the last four years. That's great, but it's not going to be like that every year. Teams have to go back down to go back up, but this team proved that even in a down year, they were pretty good. Twenty wins, the injuries, the suspensions, 20 wins is an accomplishment."

OU-Michigan Box Score

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