Oklahoma basketball: Three-pointers on Sooner land rush in Iowa

Feb 13, 2021; Morgantown, West Virginia, USA; Oklahoma Sooners forward Brady Manek (35) and guard De'Vion Harmon (11) jump for a rebound during the second half against the West Virginia Mountaineers at WVU Coliseum. Mandatory Credit: Ben Queen-USA TODAY Sports
Feb 13, 2021; Morgantown, West Virginia, USA; Oklahoma Sooners forward Brady Manek (35) and guard De'Vion Harmon (11) jump for a rebound during the second half against the West Virginia Mountaineers at WVU Coliseum. Mandatory Credit: Ben Queen-USA TODAY Sports /

Hilton Magic was on the Oklahoma basketball side on Saturday as the Sooners snapped a nine-game losing streak at Iowa State.

What started out as a game that looked like the Sooners were going to blow the the home-team Cyclones right out of their own arena, quickly reversed itself in the second half before 9th-ranked Oklahoma woke up in time to secure a 66-56 victory.

Sooner fans who watched this game couldn’t help but be reminded of an earlier game this season in which OU raced out to an 18-point first-half lead at home against West Virginia only to see it totally evaporate before regrouping in time to pull it out in the end.

It also brought back some horror-story recollections of the awakening their Sooner brethren of the gridiron experienced in the early days of the past football season.

Final. 66. 464. 56. 461

Oklahoma could do know wrong in the first half. Iowa State couldn’t find the bottom of the basket. Meanwhile, the Sooners were busy turning the early going into a track meet. At the 8:02 mark in the opening 20 minutes, Oklahoma held a 30-9 lead.

Midway through the first half, all nine Sooners who had entered the game had scored. It is that scoring balance that is paying huge dividends for Lon Kruger’s team this season.

OU led by 15, 41-26 at the half, but a little over eight minutes into the second half, the Sooners found themselves on the wrong end of a 46-45 score following a 20-4 Iowa State run to start the second half.

Austin Reaves rebounded his own miss and cashed in his second chance to put Oklahoma back out in front, 47-46, and the Sooners never trailed after that. Reaves scored OU’s final six points as the Sooners claimed their fourth Big 12 road win of the season and their eighth win in the last nine games.

Here are three key takeaways from Oklahoma first win at Iowa State since 2011, when Jeff Capel was the Sooners’ head coach:


In three games back after missing two games because of COVID-19 contact tracing, Austin Reaves has averaged nearly 22 points a game, and his clutch play and senior leadership at the end of games is a huge reason the Sooners have won eight of their last nine.

The senior point guard’s 20 points led the No. 9 Sooners in their 66-56 win at Iowa State on Saturday. None of his game-high point total was more important that the six he scored to close out the Oklahoma scoring. It was Reaves putback after his own miss with 10:55 to go in the second half that gave OU the lead for good.

The Big 12 free-throw leader made 8 of 10 free-throw attempts and outscored the Iowa State team 8-4 at the free-throw line.

You can’t win a game in the first half…or can you?

Oklahoma shot 50 percent (14 of 28) in the opening half and raced out to a 30-9 advantage before Iowa State knew what hit them. For the first 10 minutes of the first half, it was as if the Sooners could do no wrong and Iowa State could do nothing right. The Sooner defense turned Iowa State turnovers into 10 points in the first half, including five fast-break points.

The Sooners must have spent halftime in the freezer, however, because they came out stone cold, scoring just four points over the first nine minutes of the second half. That could easily have cost them the game, as the Cyclones outscored Oklahoma 20-4 to open the second half, and actually took their first lead, 46-45, with11:29 left to go in the game.

The one thing this Oklahoma team has going for it this season is resilience and the confidence that it is never out of games, even when trailing deep into the second half.

The Sooners have withstood strong opponent scoring runs before (at home against West Virginia, on the road at Texas) after building large leads, so they know they have the ability and mental composure to take a strong punch to the face, but it is clearly something they can’t afford to do and survive in the postseason.

Lon Kruger wins at Iowa State for first time in 10 OU seasons

Lon Kruger has won everywhere he has been as a college head coach, and that includes at Oklahoma, where in 10 seasons he has taken the Sooners to seven NCAA Basketball Tournaments, including a Final Four. And Oklahoma was headed to an eighth NCAA Tournament appearance under Kruger last season before the postseason was cancelled because of COVID-19.

The Sooner head coach still has not won at Kansas while at Oklahoma, nor has OU won there going back 20 consecutive visits and two head coaches before Kruger. The Sooners are 0-10 at KU under Kruger, and before Saturday they were 0-9 when playing at Hilton Coliseum in Ames, Iowa.

It helps greatly that this is not a good Iowa State team and Oklahoma is playing arguably its best basketball since the 2016 Final Four season. Nevertheless, if you’re a Sooner fan, getting out of Ames, Iowa, with a win is a big deal in any season, especially this one.

Next up for Oklahoma

The Sooners will play their third consecutive road game on Tuesday, when they play at Kansas State. Oklahoma (14-5, 9-4) defeated the Wildcats 76-50 in Norman on Jan. 19. Kansas State (8-16, 2-13) comes into Tuesday’s matchup riding the momentum of a 72-64 road win at TCU