Oklahoma Basketball: Sooners beat Texas in Big 12 opener

Coming off of a devastating overtime to Louisiana Tech, the Oklahoma Sooners were in need of a win.  The search for one in Austin was arduous, but the Sooners eventually pulled away from rival Texas to win, 88-85.  Buddy Hield was back to his high-scoring self, after a two game slump in which he went 7-for-24 from the field and scored just 16 points.  Saturday, Hield scored a team-high 22 points on 8-for-14 shooting.  Hield hit four three pointers on the evening.

Three point shooting played a big factor in the victory for Oklahoma, as it shot 46.4% from long range.  The Sooners warmed up early, and kept the fire going throughout the night.  Tyler Neal and Frank Booker combined for 18 points all off of threes (each hit three) in the first half alone.  Oklahoma nailed 10 treys in the first, shooting them at an efficient 62.5%.  Because of this, the Sooners were able to take a 43-39 lead into half time, despite sloppy play early on.

Buddy Hield scores 22 as the Sooners beat Texas on its home floor. (Photo from Soonersports.com)

Buddy Hield scores 22 as the Sooners beat Texas on its home floor. (Photo from Soonersports.com)

In the second half, the Longhorns attacked early and took a small lead that they were able to hold onto for quite a while.  It grew as high as seven, but for the most part, the game stayed within a four point margin.  With two and a half minutes left, the Sooners had trimmed the lead down to one, when Hield nailed a three to take a two point advantage, 78-76.  After a technical foul on Isaiah Cousins, which resulted in his ejection, the score was knotted at 78.  However, Jordan Woodard would go on to score the Sooners’ final 10 points (eight off of free throws) to pull away from the Longhorns.

A noteworthy stat is that, despite being vastly outsized, the Sooners won the rebounding battle 39-28.  Equally surprising is that Ryan Spangler, the team’s leading rebounder (9.5 RPG), only corralled five.  Neal led the team with seven boards, while Cousins pulled in six.  Consequently, Oklahoma beat the Longhorns in second chance points, 19-9.  However, Oklahoma was outscored by a wide margin in the paint as a whole, 20-42.

Aside from Hield, the Sooners received scoring from Neal and Cousins, each of whom scored 13 points.  The extra scoring was especially needed, since Cameron Clark, the team’s leading scorer, shot 1-for-9 and scored only eight points.

Je’lon Hornbeak made his return tonight, after missing the last four games due to a broken foot.  Though he played only 14 minutes and missed both of his shot attempts, he did dish out two assists.  It will likely take some time for Hornbeak to get acclimated again, but his early return does bode well for the Sooners, as it gives him more time to make that difficult adjustment.

Overall, it was a great win for the Sooners.  So many things did not go their way tonight, but they found ways to fight through it and earn a tough win on the road against quality competition.  It stings to lose in the fashion they did earlier this week against Louisiana Tech, but it appears Oklahoma has soaked in the lesson.

Next up, the Sooners (12-2) will be back in Norman to take on the Kansas Jayhawks (9-3).  Tip-off is set for 6 PM CST on Jan. 8 at the Lloyd Noble Center.

Want more Sooner hoops?  Follow me on Twitter @ChandlerVessels