Heading into Saturday’s matchup against Kansas State, there was an aura of positivity surrounding the Oklahoma Sooners. They were riding the momentum of a five-game win streak and undefeated in conference play. Not only was there belief that they could win on the road, but it was a completely plausible prediction. Unfortunately, the optimism quickly faded as the Sooners suffered a 69-60 defeat, falling to 12-4 (3-1) on the season.
Oklahoma struck first, and then again, opening up a 4-0 lead in the beginning stages of the game. After Kansas State did score, it was a bit of a back and forth game, until Andrew Fitzgerald of the Sooners came off the bench and unloaded six straight points to give his team the 12-7 nod. Fitzgerald would be scoreless the rest of the game however, as a Wildcat three to answer would mark a major turning point in the game.
Rodney McGruder led the way as Kansas State used a barrage of three pointers to begin to build an advantage. The Wildcats missed four out of their first five three point attempts in the first half, allowing the Sooners to maintain a small lead for the first ten minutes. Nearing the end of the half, however, they turned up the heat. They hit six out of their final eight three point attempts; to turn what was a five point deficit into a five point half time lead. They weren’t nearly as hot from downtown in the second, but shot a better overall percentage (46%) than they did in the first.
Tenacious Wildcat defense and sloppy play by Oklahoma also keyed the victory. Oklahoma clearly couldn’t handle the pressure, uncharacteristically turning the ball over a total of 16 times, well over their season average. Not only did Kansas State do a good job of forcing miscues, but they were also extremely efficient in turning them into easy points. The discrepancy in point off of turnovers was a whopping 20 points as Kansas State bested the Sooners 26-6 in that category.
The second half would begin how the first ended, with a Kansas State bucket. McGruder knocked down a jumper to give his team a double digit lead for the first time in the game.
A Buddy Hield basket a few possessions later would spark a 7-2 Oklahoma run and help them trim that lead in half, 39-34. Steven Pledger sunk a trey, and one wondered if he was ready to catch fire. It was what looked to be the advent of a Sooner comeback. A Will Spradling jumper was swiftly answered by a monstrous dunk from Amath M’Baye off the inbounds play, and Oklahoma had some momentum on their side. However, after that dunk Spradling drilled a trey, and would jumpstart a 10-1 Wildcat run that would help them extend their lead to 14.
The Sooners were stubborn though, and again answered back with a 8-1 run to cut the lead down to seven. A few plays later, a Romero Osby jumper would put them back within six, and with 3:19 to play, there was the slightest glimmer of hope. On the ensuing possession, that hope was shot down with, what else, a three pointer, this time from Angel Rodriguez. That basket arguably sealed the game, and although Oklahoma continues to fight, they eventually were forced to resort to fouling, and Kansas State sunk their shots.
Free throw shooting wins games and when you compare the free throw shooting of these two teams, the outcome isn’t surprising. Kansas State wasn’t exceptional from the line, but they shot at least a decent percentage, sinking 68% of their freebies. Oklahoma, on the other hand, was absolutely atrocious. They were just 47% (7-15) from the stripe tonight. This comes as a bit of a shock as the Sooners have been very efficient shooting the ball as of late.
Hield continued his stat stuffing scoring eight points, grabbing 10 rebounds and dishing three assists. His energetic and aggressive play was a positive in an overall negative outing for the Sooners.
Romero Osby and Amath M’Baye headed a double attack in the post, each scoring 12 apiece. Osby also chipped in eight rebounds. Despite being dominated in nearly every facet of the game, the post was on area the Sooners were able to control. Oklahoma outrebounded the Wildcats 39-24 and more than doubled their 16 points in the paint scoring 34 of their 60 points down low. This made up for a rather lackluster day beyond the arc where they shot just 27%.
Cameron Clark, who had become a constant for the Sooners off the bench, was quiet today. The junir had just one point on 0-3 shooting, and one rebound in 14 minutes.
Next up Oklahoma will look to redeem itself with a home victory over rival Texas. The Longhorns have had their own struggles as of late, and have yet to win a game in the Big 12. The Sooners will look to keep that trend going. Tip-off is set for 8:30 CST on Monday.
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