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March 23, 2008

OU's roller coaster season comes to an end

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. -- Oklahoma must have felt their NCAA Tournament experience wasn't complete until they showed the rest of the world what Sooner fans have been experiencing all season - the roller coaster ride known as OU basketball.

Oklahoma's poor shooting and shabby ball handling returned in full-force for their second-round matchup with Louisville as the Sooners fell impressively 78-48 and shot a paltry 31.9 percent from the floor.

The Sooners appeared to be picking up where they left off against St. Josephs as David Godbold once again started the game on fire from beyond the arc.

The Cardinals jumped out to an early 5-0 lead before Godbold hit three consecutive three-pointers to give the Sooners a 9-7 lead with 16:12 remaining in the first half.

But when David Padgett hit a jumper with 14:18 remaining, the Cardinals would retake the lead 10-9, and they would never again trail.

"I heard Coach Pitino calling out, "Shooter, shooter", every time I caught it and the guys responded by getting out to me, but once they did that, I had no hesitation about throwing it inside to the big guys," said Godbold. "I know they can hold their own with anybody in the country and unfortunately it just got a little out of hand and they made a big run and we couldn't really respond to that."

But Oklahoma's bigs couldn't respond completely. Louisville used their size to intimidate Oklahoma on the interior. Drives into the paint by Austin Johnson and Tony Crocker were highly contested all evening.

And Blake Griffin was double-teamed extensively throughout the game.

It didn't help matters when senior Longar Longar had one of his poorest outings of the season going just 1-of-8 from the floor and scoring only two points on the night.

Every time the Sooners tried to get the ball inside, the Cardinals responded with size and athleticism OU just couldn't match.

A Taylor Griffin jumper with 10:31 remaining in the first half drew the Sooners within four points at 18-14. But Louisville would then go on a devastating 19-2 run over the next 6:09 to put the Cardinals up by 21 with just 4:22 remaining before the half.

From that point on, the Sooners had been broken like a Kentucky colt.

"As much as you go over stuff in practice, you watch tape, a short amount of time to prepare, when you get out there and that pressure hits you, and that speed and that athleticism and the length that Louisville constantly throws at you, it becomes more difficult to do what you know you're supposed to do," said Capel.

What we ended up watching on Sunday evening in Birmingham was the worst of Oklahoma this season, but also the best of Louisville.

The Cardinals ended up shooting an astonishing 59.3 percent from the field against the Sooners.

And as anyone who has followed Oklahoma basketball can tell you, OU's worst game coupled with a very good team's best can equal some really ugly basketball.

OU's loss at Colorado even proved that their worst basketball can make for an ugly game against bad teams.

That could also be a measure of how far this team has come under Jeff Capel in year two of his tenure in Norman. The Sooners were never talked about as a Sweet 16 team at any point of the season. Well, possibly after their win against West Virginia earlier this season.

But overall, this is still a team lacking in plenty of areas. But a team that won an NCAA Tournament game. And that's more than you can say for a lot of OU teams in the past, whether they were coached by Billy Tubbs or Kelvin Sampson.

"I was really proud of our team for our season," said Capel directly after the loss. "This won't diminish the body of work that we have done all year. And it's been a group that's been great to coach. We fought through all kind of different types of adversity, and these guys just kept giving you the honest effort every day."


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