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Sooners Drop Heartbreaker To West Virginia

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NORMAN, Oklahoma -

The Oklahoma Sooners really needed a win Thursday against West Virginia. The first game in a key, three-game stretch, the matchup with the Mountaineers looked to be a springboard for a strong close to the season as the Sooners look to secure an NCAA tournament berth.

Instead of a win, the Sooners fell to the Mountaineers, 76-75. It wasn't just any old loss either; this was a brutal, gut-wrenching and heart-breaking loss.

The Sooners shot just 38.3 percent for the game, but will be kicking themselves more for missing 12 free throws, including a 4-of-10 performance from the charity stripe in the final 2:21 with the game very much in the balance.

The Sooners led by as many as 14 points in the second half, but fell behind when Christal Caldwell hit two free throws with 2:06 remaining to put WVU up, 73-72. The last two minutes would have made it an incredible OU win, but instead, it made the loss that much more tough to take.

Nicole Kornet put the Sooners up with two free throws of her own with a minute remaining. After a charge on WVU's Bria Holmes, Sharane Campbell had an opportunity to extend the OU lead, but the 87.5 percent free throw shooter—who hadn't missed a free throw in six games before a miss with 2:16 remaining—missed both free throws with 28.3 seconds left.

On the other end, Averee Fields scored over Ellenberg with 11.1 seconds left to put the Mountaineers back on top. Morgan Hook—herself an 82.7 percent free throw shooter, who missed a pair of free throws with 1:30 remaining—pushed the ball downcourt, but was blocked on a drive to the basket and WVU got possession with 1.6 seconds left. Taylor Palmer made 1-of-2 free throws, but then had an egregious error when she fouled T'ona Edwards on the ensuing inbounds pass with 0.3 seconds left, sending the freshman to the line with a chance to tie the game.

Edwards hit the first, but missed the second one long and Campbell missed a putback at the buzzer.

The loss puts the Sooners at 15-10 and 6-6 in conference play with a big matchup at No. 12 Oklahoma State on Sunday at noon.

Aaryn Ellenberg scored 18 points to lead the Sooners, passing Phylesha Whaley (2,187 points) as Oklahoma's second-leading all-time scorer. Ellenberg now has scored 2,190 career points. Nicole Griffin had 13 points before fouling out and Gioya Carter matched her career-high with 12.

Holmes led the Mountaineers with 19 while Fields had 12 points. Caldwell and Asya Bussie had 10 each.

The Sooners controlled the first half with their defense, mixing between zone and man-to-man to keep the Mountaineers off-balance. The plan worked, as WVU shot just 38.5 percent from the field in the first 20 minutes. OU wasn't tremendously better, but did shoot 46.7 percent to take a 44-33 lead into the locker room.

In the second half, the Sooners pushed the lead to 14 just two minutes out of the locker room, but West Virginia steadily chipped away the rest of the half as Oklahoma struggled with foul trouble. Four OU players had three fouls with 12:09 remaining in the game and Carter fouled out with 6:49 remaining. Griffin fouled out on an and-one opportunity for Bussie that tied the score at 71 with 3:18 remaining. Kaylon Williams followed her out with two fouls in less than 10 seconds, the second on a moving screen that put her on the bench with 2:01 remaining.

In addition to the struggles late at the foul line, the Sooners didn't hit a field goal in the final 6:42 of the game, missing six layups in the process.

It will be difficult for the Sooners to rebound emotionally and physically from this loss, but if OU wants to continue its streak of NCAA tournament appearances intact, they'll have to figure out a way to overcome.

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