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Sooners' Lattin gets last shot at NCAA glory

Sooners' Lattin gets last shot at NCAA glory

March 14th, 2018 by Associated Press in College Sports

OKLAHOMA CITY—Oklahoma big man Khadeem Lattin wanted to cap his college career the right way, but his team's regular-season fade put its fate in the NCAA Tournament selection committee's hands.

The Sooners lost eight of 10 down the stretch, and the only remaining starter from the 2016 Final Four squad had to wait and see if he'd return to the tourney. As the at-large teams were announced in alphabetical order on the selection show Sunday, Lattin got more and more worried.

Once he learned the Sooners were in , his focus shifted quickly.

"It was a little nerve racking," he said. "Just up there, just looking—N, O—all right, here we go. It was nerve racking for sure, but I'm glad we got to do it my senior year. I'm glad we got to the tournament, but we're not satisfied with that."

He's not satisfied because he knows what it feels like to go further. As a freshman, he was a reserve on a squad that reached the Sweet 16.

The next year, he played with All-American guard Buddy Hield and started all 37 games. In one of his best moments, he scored on a tip-in at the buzzer to beat West Virginia in Norman. On a team with seniors Hield, Ryan Spangler and Isaiah Cousins, Lattin found his niche.

"The role he had was great," Hield said. "He was the lonesome one that was always free roaming. He was the shot blocker in the back, the one that would catch all the alley-oops. He did so much for us. He was the Energizer bunny."

Lattin now gets to finish his career alongside Trae Young, the nation's leader in points and assists per game. The 10th-seeded Sooners play No. 7 seed Rhode Island in a Midwest Regional first-round game Thursday in Pittsburgh.

Lattin averages 6.8 points and leads the team with 6.0 rebounds and 1.9 blocks per game while shooting a career-best 59.9 percent from the field.

"He's done a great job for us," Oklahoma coach Lon Kruger said. "Probably more on the defensive, shot blocking side, and yet, at times, he's scored the ball too. He's had a real good career."

Jordan Woodard, last year's senior leader, is gone. That forced Lattin to expand his impact beyond his play.

"He's our biggest vocal leader," Oklahoma guard Christian James said.

"I would say since day one, he's been the biggest leader. We always get a burst off of his defense. He always brings energy."

Lattin lost his starting job to Jamuni McNeace late in the season after starting 94 consecutive games, but he continued to have a good attitude.

"He's handled it well," Kruger said. "He's been around a long time. He knows that with him and Jamuni, the combination of the two have had consistently good production in points and rebounding. They've done a really good job, different guys, different nights throughout the season."

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For more AP college basketball coverage: http://collegebasketball.ap.org and http://twitter.com/AP—Top25

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