Forward Romero Osby finished his home career off on the right note and so did the Sooners this season, as they defeated new Big 12 Conference foe West Virginia 83-70 Wednesday night at Lloyd Noble Center.
The Sooners, behind Osby’s game-high 26, used a furious 10-1 start to take command right out of the gates and race to a wire-to-wire victory, their third triumph over the Mountaineers this season.
"It meant a lot," Osby said. "Last game here, it's kinda bittersweet because it's the last game, but at least we got a win. It's just it was great."
They led by as much as 17 in the first half and coasted to a 39-28 intermission advantage in what eventually became their 20th win of the season.
"I am happy for the players and the seniors especially," Kruger said. "They have been here a while and have hung in there. They have worked and really invested a lot and represented well and all are going to graduate so that's great. So I am really happy for them. We have talked about a 20 win season and we have got to keep working and see if we can go on into the post season. That is a good way to go out. Again, I am really happy for them as much as everyone else but especially the seniors."
West Virginia finally chopped what was a double digit lead for most of the first half back into single digits, even a single possession early in the second, but OU responded to the Mountaineers’ 13-3 run with one of its own.
It used an 18-8 spurt to go back up by 13.
Still, the Mountaineers just wouldn’t go away.
Hot shooting from guard Eron Harris and forward Deniz Kilicli—the two poured in 23 and 20, respectively—as well as center Aaric Murray, who finished with 10, allowed the visiting Big 12 newcomers to hang around inside the five-minute mark.
That’s when Kruger's seniors took over.
With OU up just four, forward Andrew Fitzgerald converted an and-one, then followed with a jumper on the next possession after a steal.
"That was big," said fellow senior and guard Steven Pledger, who ended his home career with 23 points. "That was big. I know he has it in him. Everybody knows he has it in him. He just has to go out there and do it every time, and he did it."
Pledger then put together a five-point run of his own with a triple and pair of free throws.
That extended it back to double figures inside three minutes left, and the Mountaineers could never truly threaten again.
"We just came together as a group and we just knew we had to get stops," Osby said. "We knew we had to get it on the defensive end. We knew we would have opportunities on the offensive end to score with our motion and our movement, but we really wanted to get on the defensive end. And I think once we buckled down and got a couple stops...that kind of pulled us away a little bit."
The Mountaineers actually outshot the Sooners 52.9 percent to 50 percent, but OU’s 33-25 rebounding edge and 21-for-27 mark at the free throw line—West Virginia only shot 13 free throws, making six of those—allowed OU to put its 11th conference win in the books.
Guard Buddy Hield returned in the contest and played four minutes after suffering a broken metatarsal in his foot just 23 days ago.
"I thought he did ok when he was in there," Kruger said. "He didn't have any problems at all when he came out. He said he felt good. Then going into halftime cool-down if we didn't need to put him back in there for rotations then we probably decided at halftime to not do that. Again, he is full speed. I thought he did fine and will do even better on Saturday."
OU (20-9, 11-6 Big 12) can still clinch the three-seed with a win this Saturday at TCU and an Oklahoma State loss to Kansas State at home.
The Sooners tip off their regular season finale at 4 p.m. CT Saturday.
Follow me at twitter.com/joeyhelmer10 or facebook.com/joeyhelmer.