The state of Kansas has not been good to the Oklahoma Sooners this season. They knew walking out of Phog Allen Fieldhouse with a win would be a tall task, the last time they did so was exactly 20 years ago, in 1993. So when the final buzzer sounded and the scoreboard read Kansas 67, Oklahoma 54, it really came as no surprise as the Sooners fell to 0-2 in the Sunflower State on the year. Though disappointing, the Sooners at least managed to keep the score within a respectable margin for the bulk of the game. Compared to the previous year’s 2 point drubbing, the Sooners seemed to have substantially improved. With the loss, they fell to 13-5 (4-2) on the season.
Steven Pledger appeared as if he were poised for a breakout game initially, scoring first for Oklahoma on a three pointer, to open up a 3-2 Sooners lead, and then getting a steal and scoring in transition. To end the half, Pledger nailed another three to slice the KU lead to single digits, 29-21 at the half. He led his team in scoring at the break, with 8 points on 3-4 shooting. Unfortunately, he did not come out of halftime with the same vivacity, scoring only 2 points on 1-4 shooting from the field to end the game with a mere 10 points.
Pledger’s team was almost the exact opposite from him, struggling the first half but finding an offensive flow in the second. The Sooners, clearly flustered by a combination of the raucous crowd and KU’s stifling defense, shot just 28.6% from the field in the first. A lot of it could be attributed to simply bad shot selection. The Sooners were settling for shots they had no business taking, and with ample time remaining on the shot clock. As a result, they scored a season-low 21 points in the half. Fortunately, the Jayhawks followed a similar pattern, shooting just 38.7% and just 16.7% from long range in the half.
In the second Oklahoma picked up its shooting, and shot a much ameliorated 41.9%. However, the Jayhawks also improved on their first half performance, hitting half of their shots (12-24) in the second period of play. The Sooners were able to keep the lead at eight for a while, before the Jayhawks on a barrage of three pointers went on an 11-4 run to extend their advantage to 15 with 5:16 remaining. That seemed to be the turning point in the game, as the lead never waned below 11 from that point, and the Jayhawks went on to triumph.
Most of the Jayhawks damage came from the interior, where Jeff Withey was an absolute menace to the Sooners. Towering over the opposing players, the 7-footer scored 13 points, grabbed nine rebounds, blocked four shots, and swiped three steals.
Romero Osby and Amath M’Baye both scored 12 points to lead the Sooners in scoring, doing most of their damage in the second half after it was too little too late for a Sooner comeback. M’Baye also managed seven rebounds while Osby grabbed six. The leading rebounder for Oklahoma came from the bench in Andrew Fitzgerald, who, in a limited role (Fitz only played 12 minutes) grabbed a team-high eight boards.
For what is usually a highly productive bench, the Sooner reserves were rather, well, reserved today, managing just 10 points combined.
After his meteoric progression in Big 12 play, Buddy Hield hit a bit of a road block today, shooting just 4-11 from the floor and scoring just nine points. He was a less than stellar 0-5 from three. He just couldn’t seem to break the lid off the basket. He did however, affect the game on the opposite side of the floor, with his enthusiastic style of play, disrupting the passing lanes for three steals. He also tied for a team-high two assists, on a day where ball movement or really any offensive rhythm at all, was a rare sight.
Next up, Oklahoma will travel to Waco to take on Baylor. Tip-off is set for 6 PM CST on Wednesday January 30th.
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