Oklahoma basketball: Five takeaways as Sooners' unbeaten streak is no more

Jim Dedmon-USA TODAY Sports

A stifling, stingy North Carolina defense was too much to handle for the proud but over-matched men's Oklahoma basketball team to handle as the Tar Heels led from start to finish in knocking the Sooners from the ranks of the unbeaten.

The 11th-ranked Tar Heels (8-3) gave the Sooners a taste of their own medicine in the, playing an up-tempo game with much of their offensive flow keyed off of an aggressive, ball-hawking defense, handing Oklahoma (10-1) its first loss of the season, 81-69.

The game was played at the Spectrum Center in Charlotte, North Carolina, home of the NBA Charlotte Hornets, as part of the Jumpman Invitational tournament.

The contest started off very slowly from an offensive standpoint with both teams, going scoreless over the first three minutes. North Carolina broke the scoring drought on a three-point shot by R.J. Davis and never trailed after that. The Tar Heels opened up a 12-2 advantage at the start and the Sooners never got closer than three the rest of the first half as North Carolina took an eight-point, 36-28 lead into halftime.

Oklahoma had shot 51 percent from the field coming into the North Carolina game but was held to just 32 percent (10 of 21) in the first half on Wednesday night. And even worse, the Sooners were just one of ten from three-point range in the first 20 minutes.

North Carolina started the second half much like the first, quickly widening it's eight-point halftime margin to 12 in the first three minutes. It remained at a 10- to 13-point margin until the under-eight-minute mark, when the Tar Heels opened up a 63-48 advantage.

A 13-5 run by the Sooners cut the North Carolina lead down to seven, 68-61 with four and a half minutes left in the game and then to five, 70-65, but the Tar Heels outscored OU 11-4 over the final three minutes, largely on free throws, to close out the game.

North Carolina senior guard and leading scorer R.J. Davis led the Heels with 23 points, right on his season average. OU's leading scorer, Otega Oweh matched Davis with 23, including 10 of 11 from the foul line.

Oklahoma has two more nonconference home games remaining -- Central Arkansas on Dec. 28 and Monmouth on Dec. 31 -- before beginning Big 12 play on Jan. 6 at home against Iowa State.

Points in paint hard to come by for an OU team that has lived there

North Carolina's size and defensive pressure made it difficult to score at the rim and in the paint area, something the Sooners have excelled at this season. OU had been averaging close to 40 points per game in the paint area but in this game only managed to get 30.

Ten turnovers by halftime doomed the Sooners early

Oklahoma has averaged 13 turnovers per game in its 10 consecutive wins to start the season. Against North Carolina's athletic and aggressive defensive pressure, however, the Sooners lost the ball 10 times in the first half alone. It wasn't must better in the second half as the Tar Heels forced eight more OU turnovers for a total of 18 for the game, twice as many as North Carolina.

Javian McCollum didn't get going until late in game

Junior transfer Javian McCollum has been OU's second leading scorer on the season, averaging 14 points a game. He hit that mark against the Tar Heels, but he was absent for almost three quarters of the game. He shoots at a high percentage and has scored 18 or more points in four games this season. On Wednesday night, though, he was just 2 of 10 from the field with under nine minutes to go in the game. The Sooners could have used his usual production much earlier in the game. Credit the North Carolina defensive pressure for holding down the Siena transfer for much of the game.

Sam Godwin's foul trouble hurt the Sooners

Starting forward Sam Godwin committed two personal fouls late in the first half and picked up his third and fourth eight minutes into the second half, which forced him to the bench for a good part of the second half. He fouled out around the four-minute mark with just two points after averaging close to 8.0 per game. The Sooners don't have a lot of size in the frontcourt, and with Godwin forced to the bench for much of the game, the absence of his 6-foot, 10-in frame hurts.

Despite the loss, rebuilt OU showed it can play with anybody

This obviously was not one of Oklahoma's better games this season, but North Carolina had much to do with that. North Carolina is a very good team and man-for-man is probably better than the Sooners. Despite its 8-3 record, the Tar Heels have played five games this season against teams ranked in the nation's top 25. UNC is 3-2 in those games, including the win over OU.

The Sooners showed resilience against the Tar Heels, clawing their way back into the game after being down by double digits, but every time they did, North Carolina had a response, which is what good teams do. Oklahoma has played two ranked teams in its nonconference schedule and has split the difference, winning one (vs. No. 25 USC) and losing to the 11th-ranked Heels. The Sooners got themselves into a double-digit hole early and weren't able to fully recover.