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Trae Young’s thrilling freshman season ended Thursday in the most fitting possible way.
He tried to put Oklahoma on his back in the opening round of the NCAA tournament, but the burden of carrying the Sooners proved too great.
A balanced Rhode Island team edged Oklahoma in overtime 83-78 despite Young’s 28 points, seven assists and trio of 3-pointers. The loss capped a Sooners collapse that began in mid-January when they were ranked in the top five in the country and Young was a runaway favorite to win national player of the year.
Gifted new life when Rhode Island’s Stanford Robinson botched a point-blank put-back attempt that would have won the game as time expired in regulation, Oklahoma could not take advantage in overtime. Rhode Island guard E.C. Matthews buried a go-ahead 3-pointer with less than two minutes to go and a game clincher to extend the lead to five with 28 seconds remaining, earning the Rams a second-round date with either Duke or Iona on Saturday.
Young did everything in his power to keep the Sooners’ season alive, but once again he did not receive enough help. While Young had a pair of driving layups and a 3-pointer late in regulation to help Oklahoma force overtime, his teammates shot a combined 39 percent from the field for the game and made only 1 of 11 attempts from behind the arc.
Freshman sharpshooter Brady Manek continued his late-season regression by missing 8 of 10 shots he attempted, including several bunnies at the rim. Kristian Doolittle squandered a key possession late in regulation with a critical charging foul. Only Jamuni McNeace made a major contribution with his interior defense and ability to finish at the rim.
Oklahoma’s loss capped a second-half collapse that once would have seemed unfathomable.
Only two months ago, Oklahoma was 14-2 and appeared to be a threat to Kansas’ run atop the Big 12. The Sooners closed the season with 12 losses in their final 14 games as opposing defenses blanketed Young, his scoring efficiency declined and his teammates were unable to provide enough support.
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