The Oklahoma Sooners passed a test Monday night at the Lloyd Noble Center as they outlasted the Texas Longhorns 73-67.
With 1:45 to play the Sooners were sitting with a comfortable 11 point lead, after Sam Grooms made one out of two free throws. The raucous crowd had burst into a premature chant of “Just like football” and it appeared the Sooners had the win secure. But Texas wasn’t done yet.
On the ensuing possession, Jaylen Bond was fouled, and sent to the free throw line for the Longhorns. He made the first, and missed the second, but Texas grabbed the board. After a missed layup and another rebound Ioannis Papapetrou nailed a three pointer that sliced the Sooner lead to seven. Then the Longhorn promptly forced a Sooner turnover, and Papapetrou hit another from long range. The now silent crowd stood stunned, as they had witnessed an 11 point advantage decrease to four in a matter of 30 seconds.
Sam Grooms was fouled on the inbounds play, and sent to the line hoping to put the game out of reach for sure. The first free throw clanked off the rim, but the second one fell through and Oklahoma now led 70-65. A missed three on the other end and two free throws from Romero Osby pushed the margin back to seven, as the Sooners prevailed, improving to 13-4 (4-1) on the season.
It was fitting that Osby be the one to nail two free throws that put the game out of reach, after having a career game. The senior scored a career-best 29 points on 10-11 from the free throw line and also pulled down eight boards, pacing the Sooners to the win. He scored nine straight points to end the first half, including a three point play to cap his run, to lead his team from three down to a four point halftime lead. Though it’s his offense in particular that stuck out tonight, his defense is not to be ignored. Osby had three steals to go along with a pair of blocks on the defensive side of the ball tonight. For his all-around effort, he is the Sooner Player of the Game.
Amath M’Baye joined Osby in the paint to form a formidable duo. M’Baye scored 15 points including not one, not two, but three alley-oop slams on the evening, each of which sent a packed crowd into an equally fervid frenzy. He was a big part in the victory in terms of creating energy for the team to feed off of.
Then there’s Buddy Hield. The freshman is becoming a consistent stat stuffer, again putting up numbers across the board. Hield scored 12 points on 5-8 shooting, grabbed four rebounds, dished four assists, swiped two steals, and even got a rare couple of blocks. He was seemingly everywhere on the court tonight, playing with that same aggression and vigor that has become the Buddy Hield staple. He completed what was pretty much a three-pronged attack from him, Osby and M’Baye for the Sooners.
Oklahoma was unrelenting coming out of the gate, forcing 13 first half Longhorn miscues. They too however, got off to a rather sluggish start offensively, and fell behind early. An 11-2 run to end the first was crucial in helping the Sooners gain some momentum to start the second with.
The Sooners came out much better in the second half, shooting 54% compared to 43% in the first, and after a block from Hield and then an alley-oop in transition to M’Baye, Oklahoma had a 45-36 lead. An Osby three pointer on the next possession made it a 12 point edge, and Oklahoma was content to keep Texas at a similar length for a good remainder of the way.
Next up the Sooners will travel to historical Phog Allen Field House Saturday, Jan. 26th where they will face the Kansas Jayhawks. The Sooners will aim for their first victory in Lawrence since 1993. Tip-off is set for 3 PM CST.
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