Oklahoma needed a victory. After a devastating loss to Kansas on Wednesday, the Sooners were set to take on unbeaten and ninth ranked Iowa State. Looking ahead, the schedule wasn’t much easier, as the Sooners would have to go on the road to face Baylor and Kansas State. In order to get through this gauntlet with any ounce of respect left, Oklahoma would need a victory against one of the four teams. Having already lost to Kansas, and with two of the remaining three games on the road, Oklahoma’s best shot seemed at home, against the Cyclones. That said, it didn’t look easy.
So when the feeling of victory finally came, it washed over the Sooners in a euphoric wave.
Oklahoma upended the Cyclones, 87-82, Saturday, in a game in which the Sooners seemed in control for the majority. Ryan Spangler was exemplary on the glass, corralling 15 rebounds and also adding 16 points and two blocks. It was his incessant effort that set the tone for the Sooner win. Especially in the second half, Spangler came up with some big boards that provided the Sooners second chances which they were able to use to increase their lead. In large part due to Spangler, the Sooners outscored Iowa State 22-2 on second chance points and outrebounded the Cyclones, 41-34.
Spangler’s work, coupled with Oklahoma’s scorching shooting from beyond the arc, made the game’s outcome inexorable. The Sooners shot 43.3% from three on the afternoon, scoring 39 of their 87 points from long range. Buddy Hield was dialed in from deep, hitting six of his 12 attempts. Hield ended up leading the Sooners in scoring, with 22 points.
The Sooners came out of the gate hungry, opening up a 19-10 advantage. The Sooners would never relinquish the lead, though Iowa State did come back to tie the score at 39 before halftime.
Oklahoma opened up the second half much like it did the first—blazing hot. Hield and Isaiah Cousins unleashed a barrage of three pointers on the hapless Cyclone defense, as the Sooners quickly gained a 13 point lead. Oklahoma would hold on to the lead for much of the second half, though the Cyclones would mount a comeback. With 2:41 to go, Iowa State finally regained the lead, 77-76.
The Cyclones lead was, however, ephemeral. An and-1 play by Spangler would give the Sooners a 79-77 lead that they would cling to for the game’s remainder. Iowa State attempted to foul in order to salvage their chances of winning, but essentially, all they succeeded in doing was prolonging the inevitable. Oklahoma nailed clutch free throws down the stretch to hang on and hand the Cyclones their first loss of the season.
Though Hield and Spangler certainly hogged the limelight, Cousins had a spectacular game in his own right. The sophomore put in 17 points, and went 3-for-6 from deep. He also managed four rebounds, and a steal that put the Sooners up by eight late in the first half. Cameron Clark struggled today, scoring 12 points on 4-for-16 shooting and committing five turnovers, but hit a pair of key free throws late to seal the victory for OU.
The Sooners also displayed their defensive potential, holding the Cyclones to 23.1% (6-for-26) from three on the afternoon and forcing 13 turnovers. The win will mean a lot for the Sooners, who now have a marquee victory to point to on Selection Sunday. As tough as the Big 12 conference is, it is important that Oklahoma came out of this rough four-game stretch with at least one victory, with the potential for more.
Next up, the Sooners (13-3, 2-1) will travel to Manhattan, Ks. where they will take on the Kansas State Wildcats (12-4, 2-1). Tip-off is set for 6 PM CST on Tuesday, Jan. 14.
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