PHILADELPHIA — Romero Osby walked with heavy feet toward the Oklahoma bench, hands on hips, head hung low.
He stopped and bent over at the waist.
This was a man worn down.
His fatigue after the final buzzer Friday was understandable — he carried these Sooners as far as they could go.
On a night when OU's return to the NCAA Tournament ended abruptly with a 70-55 loss to San Diego State, Osby did everything he could to prolong the Sooners' stay. He battled. He fought. But in the end, he didn't have enough help.
“I knew it could potentially be my last game,” Osby said, “and I had to go out and fight as hard as I can.”
He did that and then some.
Osby's had a fighter's stat line: 37 minutes, 22 points and eight rebounds.
You won't find a more determined player in college basketball than Osby. He hustles. He cares. He tries to do anything and everything that his team asks of him.
And Friday, the Sooners needed him to score and score and score. His teammates managed to hit only 14 of the 43 shots that they took, and their struggles in the second half were especially profound. They struggled to hit anything from outside. Things were so bad that in the first 13-plus minutes of the second half, they had only one basket scored outside the paint.
A turnaround jumper by Osby.
Osby, as it turned out, scored 13 of OU's first 18 points of the first half, the last of those coming on a 3-pointer with 6:52 left in the game. That shot pulled the Sooners to within five points, closer than their offensive performance should've allowed them to be.
But then, as if on cue, Buddy Hield airballed a 3.
Je'lon Hornbeak followed that by backrimming another 3.
Less than three minutes later, San Diego State had a double-digit lead that it wouldn't relinquish.
Osby couldn't do much more than he did. Yet he couldn't do enough for a team as limited as this one became offensively. He is a strong player, but he is not a transcendent player who can carry a team.
But he tried.
“He's a hard guard,” San Diego State coach Steve Fisher said. “He competes very hard. And he gave us a lot of problems.”
OU coach Lon Kruger said, “He's been as consistent as anyone can be. When others around him have played well and shot it well, that's made his job a lot easier. But when they haven't, he's continued to battle and perform and produce.”
It's a stamp that he will leave with this program.
“I just hope I was able to leave a legacy as far as people looking at me and thinking I was a good basketball player but more of a better person,” Osby said.
As Osby finished talking in the postgame press conference about his mark on the program, Amath M'Baye raised his hand. The Sooner forward wanted to say something about Osby.
“He gave his heart and soul to this program,” M'Baye said. “He's been amazing. He's been holding it up for us all season, and I just want to give him a lot of credit for that.”
All of the Sooners should.
Osby placed this team on his broad shoulders and carried them to all sorts of milestones. Winning 20 games again. Returning to the NCAA Tournament.
But on Friday night, he could carry the Sooners no more.
His effort was valiant, but in the end, the offensive shortcomings of this team were just too great for even this fighter to overcome.
Jenni Carlson: Jenni can be reached at (405) 475-4125. Like her at facebook.com/JenniCarlsonOK, follow her at twitter.com/jennicarlson_ok or view her personality page at newsok.com/jennicarlson.