Oklahoma basketball: Three-pointers from an OU Bedlam repeat defeat

Feb 27, 2021; Norman, Oklahoma, USA; Oklahoma State's Kalib Boone (22) and Rondel Walker (5) and Keylan Boone (20) celebrate after defeating the Oklahoma Sooners at the Lloyd Noble Center. Oklahoma State won in overtime 94-90. Mandatory Credit: Sarah Phipps/The Oklahoman via USA TODAY NETWORK
Feb 27, 2021; Norman, Oklahoma, USA; Oklahoma State's Kalib Boone (22) and Rondel Walker (5) and Keylan Boone (20) celebrate after defeating the Oklahoma Sooners at the Lloyd Noble Center. Oklahoma State won in overtime 94-90. Mandatory Credit: Sarah Phipps/The Oklahoman via USA TODAY NETWORK /

Oklahoma basketball suffered a third consecutive loss, losing 76-72 at No. 17 Oklahoma State on Monday night.

Lon Kruger’s 16th-ranked Oklahoma  basketball team gave a gallant effort on Monday night, but came up just short as Oklahoma State swept the this season’s Bedlam series from the Sooners with a 79-75 win.

It was the Sooners third consecutive loss after putting together a streak of eight wins in nine games.

Much like the first of the two back-to-back games on Saturday, the Monday rematch was a back-and-forth battle that saw 12 lead changes. Fueled by a sizzling first-half by Brady Manek, the Sooners led by as many as nine points midway through the first 20 minutes and held a narrow one-point  margin at the half.

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Manek led all scorers at the intermission with 16 points, including three three-pointers. More important, Oklahoma State’s superstar freshman Cade Cunningham was without a field goal and just two points at the half. Cunningham exploded for a career-high 40 points in the win at Norman on Saturday.

The lead changed hands several times in the second half, with neither team holding more than a four-point advantage.

Facing double and sometimes triple teams whenever he touched the ball, Cunningham did not register his first field goal until the 7:20 mark of the second half. At the time, the Sooners were leading 64-59, when a layup by Cunningham cut the margin to three. Thirty seconds later Cunningham scored again on a short jumper, and the OU advantage was down to one.

You just got the feeling at that moment that the Oklahoma State star was about to take over the game.

Cunningham would score just once more from the field, but just like a Hollywood script would dictate, he effortlessly drained four critical free throws over the last 17 seconds of the game to seal the win and the Bedlam sweep for the Cowboys.

Cunningham finished with 15 points. His two free throws with 17 seconds left gave the Cowboys a five-point lead, 77-72, their biggest advantage of the game.

Oklahoma achieved what it had set out to do in slowing down Cunningham, but three other Oklahoma State starters finished in double figures, which proved to be the difference in the game. Six-foot, 9-inch Kalib Boone, who had just six points on Saturday, led the Cowboys with 17 points, all from close range, on Monday night.

Manek led Oklahoma with 20 points and Austin Reaves added 19.

The Sooners dropped to 9-7 in the Big 12 and are in danger of falling all the way to seventh in the Big 12 standings if they are unable to stop their losing skid in the regular-season finale against Texas on Thursday.

A week ago, OU was in sole possession of second place in the Big 12. A seventh place finish would make the Sooners the No. 7 seed in next week’s Big 12 Tournament and keep them from earning an opening round bye;

Brady Manek comes through with his best game of the season

Manek’s 20-point performance was his second-highest scoring game of the season and couldn’t have come at a better time. It was just the second time all season he has reached the 20-point level. He scored 29 points in OU season-opening game against the University of Texas-San Antonio.

Manek missed two games at midseason because of COVID-19 protocols. In the 10 games since his return, he had pretty much been a non-factor in the Sooners’ lineup. In those 10 outings before Monday night, he had averaged just 6.9 points.

In addition to his 20 points in the Monday night loss to OSU, Manek had nine rebounds. four assists and two steals in 38 minutes of action.

Cade Cunningham, silenced for most of the game, delivers deciding blows late

The Oklahoma defense did an excellent job of limiting Cunningham’s touches and scoring opportunities for much of the game. That turned the freshman sensation into more of a facilitator and defensive contributor, where he is equally dangerous.

He made only three field goals in the game on eight shot attempts. When he gets to the free-throw line, however — which he can do virtually as often as he wants — he is almost automatic. And when it is late in the game and his team is leading, it is lights out.

Cunningham made nine of 10 free throws in the Monday rematch with the Sooners, the final four of which decided the game. Although he was held below his season scoring average, he contributed in other important ways, recording seven rebounds and four assists and commanding extra defenders, freeing up scoring opportunities for his teammates.

Sooners are heading in wrong direction as postseason nears

Oklahoma had won eight of nine games and were riding high with a No. 7 ranking nationally. A narrow win over Iowa State, the Big 12’s worst team, raised some eyebrows. That was followed b a stunning upset at Kansas State in a game OU led by six with three minutes to go.

In a little over 48 hours, the Sooners have picked up two more losses, leaving some to wonder if their four wins over top-10 teams in the month of January, including three consecutively, was more the exception than the norm and created a false sense of security.

The game at home on Thursday against Texas could drive a further nail into this increasing cause for concern, but the reality is Oklahoma did not play particularly well at Kansas State, in large part due to some exceptional defense on the part of K-State. The two games with Oklahoma State were entirely different.

The Cowboys are playing really well right now. They also have perhaps the best player in college basketball on their team — a major difference maker in every game they play, and the supporting cast is pretty good as well. The Sooners played well in both games with OSU. Oklahoma played well enough to win both games, but in the end the Sooners just didn’t get it done.

The Sooners have won five games over ranked teams this season, but they have also lost six games to top-25 teams. OU is a good but not great team and, frankly, they are not a top-10 team. But the Sooners are playing better than most of us expected and they are capable of beating anyone, especially with Brady Manek regaining his old form.

Despite concerns to the contrary, the sky is not falling, and there are good times still ahead before the final buzzer sounds on the season for the Crimson and Cream.