After Cameron Clark coolly sank two free throws, Buddy Hield came up with a huge steal, what ensued was madness. The final buzzer sounded and Sooner fans gave their team college hoops’ highest form of exaltation: they stormed the court. Those donning the crimson and cream hoisted their heroes up on their shoulders, roaring in pure delight of Oklahoma’s 72-66 upset of 5th ranked Kansas, while those wearing blue—and there were quite a few—left the arena with their heads hanging, dejected, shocked even that their team could be on such an abysmal streak of basketball.
The Sooners had done what earlier this season, would have been considered an unthinkable feat, but over the past week, has become the norm, sending the Jayhawks home with their 3rd consecutive loss. Nevertheless, the magnitude of this victory should not be downplayed, as it could be the difference between a NCAA tournament berth and a trip to the NIT.
With 4:13 to play, Oklahoma led 60-58. Travis Releford was sent to the line with a chance to tie the game for Kansas. He hit the first but the second clanked off the rim—this highlighted the major influence foul shooting had in this game. The Sooners were 81.3% from the charity stripe, while Kansas shot just 55% (11-20). Even though the Jayhawks out shot their opponents 46.3% to 44.8%, their dismal foul shooting allowed for the Sooners to gain an upper hand.
After the Releford free throw, the Sooner lead was down to one. Oklahoma responded swiftly and emphatically with a three pointer from Steven Pledger, extending their lead.
The Jayhawks made several attempts at a comeback, coming within two points multiple times. As time dwindled however, they were forced to resort to the fouling game. Down the stretch, the Sooners nailed six of their eight free throw attempts to seal the fate of the game.
There was a point where the outcome of the game didn’t seem to be in question. With 9:25 left Oklahoma led by a margin of nine, 57-48. But a three pointer from freshmen Ben McLemore would spark an 8-0 Jayhawk run that would slice the deficit to one. Amath M’Baye responded with a three pointer that would send the Sooner crowd into a frenzy. After that triple, the Sooners fortitude would be tested many more times, but they would never relinquish the lead.
Speaking of fortitude, it seemed to be something that was non-existent between Romero Osby and Amath M’Baye in the first meeting with the Jayhawks. The two combined for 8-27 in the loss, clearly flustered by Kansas’ Jeff Withey. Today, it was a different story. Osby and M’Baye used a different approach: take more jump shots, and it worked to perfection. The two combined for 9-17 and 25 points, displaying their range as they also hit a trio of three point baskets. They were undaunted by Withey, the shot blocking machine, who, outside of his comfort zone, mustered only one rejection today, although he did score 14 points, using his size to his advantage.
Osby and M’Baye weren’t the only Sooners to play a part in the huge victory today though, in fact it was a collective effort, and almost every Sooner who logged floor time had some role in the win. Steven Pledger scored 15 points and also hit a few clutch buckets to give the Sooners momentum, including a three point-play in which he was fouled on a pull up jumper in transition, and then went to the line and converted on his freebie.
Isaiah Cousins, who got the nod as the starting point guard this afternoon, scored seven points, five of which came early in the first as the Sooners began to establish a lead. Cousins also added four rebounds and four assists tonight.
Cameron Clark led the bench push, scoring 10 points in a reserve role for the Sooners, and also coming up with his share of clutch shots. Another key reserve was Andrew Fitzgerald, who scored six points, all in the first half, to help the Sooners out to an early advantage.
Jelon Hornbeak, adjusting to coming off the bench, scored seven points, including six of Oklahoma’s final eight. He was instrumental in closing out the game, hitting free throws down the stretch.
Next up the Sooners (15-7, 6-4) will face TCU (10-13, 1-9) on Monday at 6 PM CST at the Llyod Noble Center.
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