SPOKANE, Wash. – In a game where both teams' top leading scorer had off nights, the stage was set for an unlikely hero.
Unfortunately for Oklahoma, he wasn't wearing crimson and cream. North Dakota State freshman Carlin Dupree scored four points off the bench in the last minute to help the Bison complete a crazy late comeback in an 80-75 victory against the Sooners in the second round of the NCAA Tournament on Thursday night.
NDSU (26-6) seemed to have outplayed the fifth-seeded Sooners for most of the game, but OU senior Cam Clark found a way to have the Sooners in a position to win their first tournament game under coach Lon Kruger.
Lawrence Alexander hit a bailout 3-pointer with 11.2 seconds left in regulation to tie the game at 66-66 for the Bison. OU had three cracks at it but shots by Buddy Hield, Jordan Woodard and Isaiah Cousins all came up short.
In overtime, the Sooners inability to hit shots finally did them in. OU shot 34.7 percent from the field, while NDSU shot 53 percent. And Dupree, on the bench for the first 44 minutes, was thrust into the spotlight and delivered with two free throws and a baseline leaner.
"Tough ballgame to not win," Kruger said. "Credit to North Dakota State. Thought our guys fought like crazy. Proud of our guys."
Clark had his best game in a long time, notching 25 points. Thirteen of those 25 came in the last 2:04 of regulation and the overtime session.
In a game built on Hield vs. Taylor Braun, each team needed others to step up. For OU, it was Clark. For the Bison, it was Alexander. His game-tying 3-pointer was the highlight of his career-high 28 points.
OU was attempting to pull off its biggest comeback of the season. The Sooners were out of rhythm on both sides of the floor in the first half, trailing 37-29 at half. OU was shooting under 33 percent, while allowing NDSU to hit 62 percent of its shots.
The only bright spot was sophomore guard Isaiah Cousins, who had 11 points in the half. The Bison found a way to contain Cousins the rest of the way, who finished with 17 points to go with eight rebounds and three steals.
It just wasn't meant to be for Hield. He ended up with nine points on 4 of 14 shooting that included a 1 for 9 performance from 3-point territory.
Predicted to finish tied for fifth in the Big 12 conference, the Sooners placed second at 12-6 in the Big 12. OU, however, once again was not able to get over the hump and earn a postseason tournament win despite Clark's best efforts.
"I learned a lot from the University of Oklahoma," Clark said. "Coach did a great job of coaching me. It's been a great four years."
Freshman guard Jordan Woodard finished with 13 points and three assists. OU returns four of its starters for next season's team with only Clark and Tyler Neal departing the club.
"They took a big step this year," Kruger said. "They made a lot of progress. They like to play. We'll continue making progress."