BROOKLYN, N.Y. — The Oklahoma Sooners tried, but they could not make lightning strike twice at the Barclays Center.
Though OU fought valiantly, the No. 1-ranked Michigan State Spartans proved to be too much, and the Sooners fell 87-76 in the Coaches vs. Cancer Classic final on Saturday night.
“I'm proud of our guys,” said Sooners coach Lon Kruger. “Michigan State is the type of ballclub that can do that to you. If they get you going sideways a little bit, it's kinda hard to getting running back in the right direction.”
An 11-3 run helped Oklahoma (4-1) get out to an early 22-11 lead in the first half. Cameron Clark was the go-to guy for the Sooners during that stretch, scoring 14 of those points.
The final nine minutes of the half were dominated by the Spartans (6-0). They controlled the boards and tightened up on defense, going on a 26-5 run to the close out the half with a 45-31 lead. Denzel Valentine guided the offensive attack with five assists in the half.
“We stopped moving the ball like we need to,” Kruger said. “I thought their defense took control of it there for that last few minutes of the first half. We've got to be able to overcome that, move the ball better and make better plays for each other.”
The Sooners came out strong in the second half and trimmed the lead to four with 12:03 remaining in regulation. They kept the game close with a strong night at the free-throw line, where they made 73 percent of their attempts.
The Spartans would not quit, however, and kept pace with the Sooners until the final whistle. Valentine's acrobatic slam dunk with 1:27 left was the final dagger in Oklahoma's chances for another unbelievable comeback, after OU rallied to beat Seton Hall in the final seconds on Friday night.
Clark led the Sooners with 32 points and seven rebounds.
The Sooners were successful containing Adreian Payne, holding him to just four points. The senior forward was the Spartans' standout in their semifinal win over Virginia Tech, where he scored 29 points and collected 10 rebounds.
“(My teammates) did a great job of moving the ball,” Clark said. “We're just going to go back to Oklahoma, work hard and go from there.
The Sooners return home for nonconference action Friday night when they welcome the Arkansas-Little Rock Trojans (1-4) to the Lloyd Noble Center.