Oklahoma basketball: Sooners stand tall to No. 2 Kansas, but fall in final minute 79-75

Men’s Oklahoma basketball was staring down history when it took the court Tuesday night against the Kansas Jayhawks, one of the blue bloods of college basketball.

A 10-point lead with just over five minutes to go against the No. 2 team in the country on that team’s home court would seem to be a win waiting to happen, but the Sooners seemingly are not comfortable this season in these situations and this is Allen Fieldhouse, a venue that holds 17,000 rabid fans and where Oklahoma has not won a game in 29 seasons.

Coming into Tuesday night’s game, Oklahoma had not won in Lawrence in 21 consecutive games. Over that span (since 1993), the Sooners had beaten Kansas just 10 times in 43 games overall (eight in Norman and two in Kansas City in the Big 12 Tournament).

The Sooners and Jayhawks battled back and forth in the first half. A three-point shot by OU freshman Milos Uzan midway through the opening 20 minutes put the Sooners up 17-12, the largest margin by either team in a first half that included 12 ties and 11 lead changes.

Kansas regained the lead late in the first half and went to the locker room with a 36-34 advantage at the break.

Three minutes into the second half, Kansas had expanded its lead to 47-40. OU responded with a 10-1 over the next three minutes to go up 50-48. A basket by Tanner Groves with 5:19 remaining stretched the Sooner advantage to 10 points, the largest margin by either team in the game. At that point, it looked like Oklahoma might be on the brink of snapping one of the longest road court losing streaks in the country.

But you can’t expect the reigning national champions to go away quietly, and especially not playing before its home fans in one of the loudest buildings in college basketball. The Sooners had been able to effectively take the passionate Kansas crowd out of the game, holding the lead for nearly 13 minutes in the second half.

But Kansas indeed wasn’t done, and Oklahoma has had difficulty closing out games this season. Four of the Sooners five losses coming into the KU game were by four or fewer points and their two Big 12 losses were by a combined four points, both to top-25 teams.

Over the final five minutes, Kansas outscored OU 18-4. The Jayhawks didn’t commit a single turnover over that stretch and tightened down its defensive intensity, holding the Sooners to 1 for 8 shooting at the most critical point in the game. As Kansas was making its late game-changing run, the decibel level of the crowd increased proportionally with the end result being a four-point, come-from-behind Kansas victory, the Jayhawks’ 15th of the season against just one loss.

Oklahoma lost for the third time in four Big 12 games and dropped to 10-6 overall. What stands out about that is that all three conference losses are by a combined eight points. The bottom line is the Sooners need to get better both offensively and defensively in the closing minutes of games. Sounds horrifyingly familiar, doesn’t it?

After two consecutive Big 12 roach games, Oklahoma returns home for an 11 a.m. game on Saturday against West Virginia.

Three telltale takeaways from yet another close Oklahoma loss

  • Sam Godwin’s minutes and contributions are getting better with every game. The 6-foot, 10-inch Wofford transfer tied his season high with 12 points and seven rebounds coming off the bench. Ten of Godwin’s 12 points came in the opening half against Kansas and got the Sooners going early.
  • Turnovers continue to be a part of the Sooners’ game that clearly needs to get better. Eleven turnovers against an aggressive Kansas defensive team are actually better than in other OU performances this season, but they still hurt Oklahoma to the tune of 17 Kansas points at the other end. Seven of OU’s turnovers against Kansas came in the opening half and led to what Sooner head coach Porter Moser was concerned about most in this game: Kansas breakaway transition baskets.
  • Kansas ranks third in the Big 12 in field goal percentage defense, holding opponents to an average field goal percentage of 40.1 percent. Oklahoma shot 47.4 percent (27 of 57) for the game. On the defensive end, the Sooners held the Jayhawks to a FG percentage of 37.3, Kansas’ second lowest shooting percentage this season.