Oklahoma basketball: Takeaways from OU’s near upset at ‘The Phog’

Kansas senior forward David McCormack (35) dunks over Oklahoma early in the second half of Saturday's game inside Allen Fieldhouse.
Kansas senior forward David McCormack (35) dunks over Oklahoma early in the second half of Saturday's game inside Allen Fieldhouse. /

No Big 12 team has played No. 8-ranked Kansas closer at Allen Fieldhouse this season than the Oklahoma basketball men’s team.

It’s an extremely rare occurrence for a visiting team to play the Jayhawks on their home hardwood and come away with a win. Kentucky did it in strong fashion this season, but that happens but once a season, if at all.

Oklahoma came very close to pulling off one of the most stunning upsets in college basketball this season but fell just short in a 71-69 loss to heavily favored Kansas on Saturday.

Similar to the Jan. 18 matchup between Kansas and Oklahoma in Norman, it was back and forth for 40 minutes and Kansas prevailed late. The Sooners have not won in Lawrence since 1993, when Billy Tubbs was at the helm and Jeff Webster and Terry Evans were the OU leaders on the court in an 80-77 Sooner win.

On Saturday, 28 years later, Oklahoma was led by senior guard Jordan Goldwire, who was the leading scorer for the Sooners with a season-high 20 points and shot 9 for 16 from the field. Senior forward Tanner Groves tallied 19 points, along with key three-pointers down the stretch to keep the Sooners close.

Goldwire had a shot to tie the game with two seconds remaining, but it just barely grazed the rim falling harmlessly away as time expired and the losing string at KU continues at now 21 straight.

Here are three telling takeaways from the Sooners loss to Kansas:

Sooners cut down the turnovers

A big reason Oklahoma had a good chance to win the game was it didn’t create as many costly turnovers as it has in most games this season. The Sooners only had three turnovers in the first half, which allowed them to take a 34-31 lead into the locker room at halftime.

The Sooners were able to cut down Kansas’s fast break opportunies, by only turning the ball over nine times in the game.

"That’s been a theme of ours for the whole season,” Junior guard Jalen Hill said in the postgame interview session. “Recently, we’re really emphasizing it. “Taking care of the ball, we’re gonna get really good shots and possessions and at the end of the day people are going to knock down shots and get to the basket.”"

Jordan Goldwire played a giant role

The senior guard has played in many big games over his college career, playing at Duke before Oklahoma, and he showed that Saturday afternoon. Goldwire racked up a team-high 20 points, with two key three-pointers late in the second half. He was aggressive to the rim and showed his range down the stretch.

"“I thought Jordan Goldwire did so much,” OU head coach Porter Moser said. ”He was exhausted. Obviously, we would have liked to attack the rim and get them in a scramble situation. It came down to one play and he scored 20 to help us put us in that position.”"

Goldwire continues to shine in big games for Oklahoma and will have to keep doing that for Oklahoma to earn an at-large bid to this year’s NCAA Tournament.

Scoring drought doom the Sooners, yet again

It’s been a killer for OU in most of the Sooners’ losses — where they go four-plus minutes or longer without scoring a bucket. Similar to the game against Oklahoma State in Stillwater, the Sooners went on a nearly eight-minute scoring drought in the final 10 minutes of regulation. Midway through the second half, Oklahoma held a 57-52. Over the next four- and a-half minutes, that advantage turned into a four-point, 61-57 deficit.

A non-existent Umoja Gibson hurt the Sooners in a big way.  The 6-foot, 1-inch senior guard was coming off a 30-point performance against No. 9 Texas Tech. It was pretty clear most of the Kansas game that the Jayhawks were not going to allow Gibson to beat them with the kind of game he had against Texas Tech.

The Kansas defense hounded the Sooner long-range sharpshooter throughout the game, holding Gibson to just two shots and no points. To add insult to injury, he fouled out late in the second half.

"“Gibson did a great job early of creating shots for some other guys,” Moser said. “He really wasn’t pressing and then obviously got in foul trouble, and that always kind of gets him but he hasn’t been in foul trouble much this year.”"

On paper, the Sooners have one of the toughest slates of games in the nation, but they are handling it well.

Despite the losses to top-25 teams, the Sooners have been in most of those games and have had a handful of opportunities to win them. They actually have four wins over top-15 teams this season.

Oklahoma has some work to do with No. 20 Texas coming to Norman on Tuesday, followed by a good opportunity to get a quality road win at Iowa State Feb. 19.