The No. 3 Oklahoma Sooners staved off the No. 14 Albany Great Danes to win 69-60 in their NCAA tournament second-round matchup.
Oklahoma had a fine season, finishing tied for second in the rugged Big 12 and spending most of the year comfortably ranked in the top 20. Nevertheless, there was some surprise when the Sooners wound up with a 3-seed in the NCAA tournament, especially given their 10 losses and an RPI of 18. By comparison, no other third seed had that many defeats and every fourth and fifth seed except one (Georgetown) had fewer losses, a better RPI or both.
Oklahoma, though, can say something that two of its fellow 3-seeds can’t: It is still playing. While losses by fellow Big 12 members Iowa State (to UAB) and Baylor (to Georgia State) put the Madness in March, and the other No. 3, Notre Dame, survived a major scare from Northeastern, the Sooners had a comparatively comfortable time in a 69-60 win over Albany.
Oklahoma never trailed and never saw its lead dip below six points in the final 10 minutes. But there was still plenty of drama. The Great Danes had the ball down six with a minute remaining, but Greg Stire, in his only field goal attempt of the game, missed a jump shot and the Sooners closed the game out at the free throw line.
Senior forward TaShawn Thomas led all scorers with 18 points while Big 12 player of the year Buddy Hield had 15 points and six rebounds. Oklahoma won the game with its defense, limiting Albany to just 37.7% shooting from the floor overall and 32% from three-point range. Peter Hooley, who became a star after making the last-second three-pointer to clinch Albany's bid just weeks after losing his mother to cancer, led the Great Danes with 15 points but shot just 2 of 10 from outside.
The Sooners won an NCAA tournament game for the first time since 2009. It was the first win in the Big Dance at Oklahoma for coach Lon Kruger, who became the first coach to win at least one NCAA tourney game at five different schools.