Oklahoma basketball: OU among 7 ranked teams in Big 12 quarters

Jan 23, 2021; Norman, Oklahoma, USA; Kansas Jayhawks forward Jalen Wilson (10) goes up for a basket as Oklahoma Sooners forward Kur Kuath (52) defends the basket during the first half at Lloyd Noble Center. Mandatory Credit: Alonzo Adams-USA TODAY Sports
Jan 23, 2021; Norman, Oklahoma, USA; Kansas Jayhawks forward Jalen Wilson (10) goes up for a basket as Oklahoma Sooners forward Kur Kuath (52) defends the basket during the first half at Lloyd Noble Center. Mandatory Credit: Alonzo Adams-USA TODAY Sports /

15-9. 462. 5:30 PM CT. 464. ESPN2. Thursday, March 11. 19-8. Jayhawks -3

Oklahoma basketball posted its first win in 15 days and snapped a pair of losing streaks in the process.

The Sooners, the No. 7 seed in this year’s Big 12 Tournament, defeated an Iowa State team that has lost 18 consecutive games and was winless  conference play this season 79-73 in the opening round of the tournament on Wednesday and advances to play No. 2 Kansas (19-8) in Thursday’s quarterfinals.

The Oklahoma-Kansas quarterfinal matchup will be at 5:30 p.m. CT and will be broadcast on ESPN2.

The win over Iowa State brought a four-game losing streak to an end for Oklahoma and was the Sooners first win in the conference tournament since 2016.

The Sooners (15-9), like they have done several times this season, almost let a double-digit second-half lead slip through their fingers before righting themselves in the closing minutes to hold off the pesky Cyclones, who have played Oklahoma close three times this season.

Austin Reaves scored 14 of his 21 points in the second half, including seven points in the final two minutes to preserve the Sooner victory. Sophomore guard De’Vion Harmon added 18. Oklahoma will need both Reaves and Harmon to come up big again if the Sooners are to survive and advance against the second-seeded Jayhawks.

“We’ll have to raise our level of play against Kansas.” — OU head coach Lon Kruger

Although OU shot 51 percent and dominated Iowa State for most of the game, there were still troubling signs that don’t bode well for the Sooners as they move into the quarterfinal round of the Big 12 Tournament, where seven of the eight remaining teams are ranked among the nation’s top 25 teams.

After the Sooners had built up an 18-point second-half advantage, they appeared to put it on cruise control. Iowa State responded with an 11-0 run to draw within seven points and put a scare in the OU faithful, who have seen this movie before. OU, which boasts ball security as a team strength, turned the ball over five times in a five-minute stretch in the second half, helping fuel the Cyclones’ late comeback.

Oklahoma ended up with 14 turnovers, nearly four more than its Big 12-best season average.

The Sooners continue to struggle in rebounding. Although they managed to outrebound Iowa State 36-35, the Cyclones are the worst rebounding team in the Big 12. Moreover, OU was outrebounded 13-7 on the offensive boards. Fortunately, that just led to 10 second-chance points, but against the better teams that lie ahead in the bracket, that disadvantage could prove fatal.

Oklahoma and Kansas split their two regular-season games, with each team winning on its home court. The Jayhawks extended the Sooners’ losing streak to 20 games at Allen Fieldhouse with a four-point victory. OU reversed the outcome with a seven-point win in Norman, with Harmon and Reaves going for 22 and 16, respectively.

Brady Manek missed the first game at KU, out with COVID, and had just five points against the Jayhawks in Norman. The 6-foot, 8-inch senior appears to have found his shooting stroke and could be an important fact in Thursday’s quarterfinal matchup.

Kansas will be without two players against the Sooners. Starting center David McCormick and reserve Tristan Enaruna will not play in the Big 12 Tournament due to COVID-19 protocols. McCormick scored 17 points in the win over OU at Kansas. He was held to just nine points in the game in Norman, but his presence around the basket is an important factor on both offense and defense for the Jayhawks.

Even without McCormick, Kansas has more than enough talent to take care of business against the Sooners. And playing at the T-Mobile Center in Kansas City is like a second home to Kansas, which is just 35 miles from the KU campus.

“We’ll have to raise our level of play against Kansas,” said OU head coach Lon Kruger in his postgame comments after the Wednesday night win over Iowa State.

Oklahoma has somehow avoided playing Kansas in the Big 12 Tournament for a good while. The two teams have not met in the conference tournament since 2002, and the Sooners have not lost to the Jayhawks in Kansas City since 1998.

Behind Hollis Price, No. 2-seeded Oklahoma defeated No. 1 Kansas 64-55 in 2002 for one of its three Big 12 Tournament championships.


Kansas will come into its quarterfinal game with Oklahoma well rested, having not played since last Thursday. Whether that is an advantage or a disadvantage is debatable. The Sooners will be back on the court less than 24 hours after beating Iowa State to advance against the Jayhawks. That can be a good thing in that OU won’t have to work out any rust, but the real question is: How much did the close game down the stretch with the Cyclones take out of the Sooners. We should have the answer to both questions fairly early on on Thursday night.

We’ll also have a fairly good idea by halftime of how missing David McCormick will affect the Jayhawks.

Kansas is playing much better basketball since its loss in late January at Oklahoma. Conversely, Oklahoma has lost four of its last five, although all four losses were by a combined 17 points.

Does Oklahoma have enough gas left in the tank to overcome a higher-seeded Kansas team that is determined to show it can win without its big man down low? Sadly, I think not.

Kansas survives and advances. Jayhawks by +5