The Oklahoma Sooners overcame many obstacles in a tight battle with 18th ranked Kansas State in the waning minutes of the game Saturday evening at the Llyod Noble Center. Though the team shot an atrocious percentage, turned the ball over countless times, and couldn’t convert on their free throws, they somehow managed to tie the game late in the second period.
With just three minutes to play, the Sooners were backed against the wall, down 50-42. With 2:46 to go, Sam Grooms uncharacteristically turned the ball over, and it seemed as if the game was reaching the point where the outcome was inevitable and the Sooners would be on the wrong side of it. However, after a Thomas Gipson shot attempt clanked off the rim, Cameron Clark grabbed the rebound and the Sooners pushed it up court. They found Romero Osby on the inside, who would end up converting a three point play to cut the lead to five. Just like that, with 1:58 to go, the Sooners were back in it.
After a few more misses, Oklahoma would catch a break as Cameron Clark stepped into the passing lane and got a steal with just over a minute to play. He then kicked it back out to point guard Sam Grooms, who faced a wide open opportunity from long range. Grooms, a notoriously poor shooter, hesitated for a moment, but after a few seconds, he gave into the crowds demand to “shoot it!” and sank what was just his third attempt and his first made attempt from beyond the arc all season, to narrow the lead to two. On the next possession, Grooms, now bursting with confidence, drove fearlessly into the lane and rolled in the game-tying layup with just 13 seconds left.
At this point, the crowd was hysterical, as Kansas State prepared for their chance to avoid overtime and walk away with a victory. The Wildcats inbounded the ball to their point guard, Angel Rodriguez who drove the length of the floor, went up for the game-winning layup and was fouled. Somehow, Rodriguez was able to tune out the deafening roar of the crowd and sink both free throws, putting his team up 52-50.
With just over five seconds remaining, Oklahoma got the ball in the hands of Grooms, hoping he could come through with yet another big play. Unfortunately, Grooms’ late-game heroics had since worn off, and he air balled a well-contested three pointer that would have won the game. Oklahoma fell to 14-6 (5-3) on the season with the loss and also fell victim to a season sweep from the Wildcats, who returned the favor after being on the opposite end last season.
The entire game portrayed a dubious display of offense, and a brilliant defensive effort. Oklahoma shot just 38.8% from the floor, and believe it or not, held the Wildcats to an even worse percentage (37.5%) despite the loss.
The difference maker may have been turnovers. Oklahoma turned the ball over 14 times on the evening, and at least 10 of those were forced as a direct result of Kansas State defense, as the Wildcats recorded 10 steals.
If it was the turnovers that did them in, it was surely the free throw shooting. The Sooners shot only 64.3% from the stripe tonight, and endured a crucial stretch in which they missed the front end of a one-and-one three consecutive times.
The second half began a dismal period of offense for the Sooners, who did not make a field goal until nearly five minutes in. In fact, for the first six minutes and 18 seconds of the half, the two teams combined to score a whopping four points. Later in the half, there was a similar stretch of barren basketball, when the Sooners did not score for over three minutes, allowing the Wildcats to jump out to an eight point advantage.
Romero Osby led all scorers with 13 points for the Sooners, and he also pulled down seven rebounds. He went 5-12 from the floor. There was a three-way tie for second place in scoring, as Amath M’Baye, Grooms and Clark all scored seven.
Isaiah Cousins also turned out to be a beacon of light in an otherwise dark performance for the Sooners, scoring six points on 2-3 shooting and also dishing out two assists in 20 minutes of play. This is big for the freshman who has played to his age so far this season. Hopefully it is a sign that he is adapting to the college atmosphere.
Next up, the Sooners will travel to Ames to take on the Iowa State Cyclones on Monday Feb. 4th. Tip-off is set for 6 PM CST.
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