NORMAN — One of Oklahoma deficiencies was there for all to see Saturday night at Texas. It gives up too many points. But it does learn from past experiences.
Five days after an excruciating overtime loss to Louisiana Tech to end the non-conference slate the Sooners rallied from seven down with about eight minutes to play to win the Big 12 Conference opener at Texas, 88-85.
The learning experience came from what OU did in the final minutes. Down seven with the game three quarters of the way through happens a lot in conference play. It’s usually about that time when blowouts start emerging or the ones that come down to the last possession emerge.
One team usually makes a run at that point to pull away or tie it up. The Sooners made the run, closing the game with a 27-17 run.
That’s when was at its best. There was a three-minute span from about the 3:30 mark where OU held the Longhorns without a basket to grab the lead and eventually build it up to six points. The offensive execution in the final 90 seconds was virtually flawless with the Sooners scoring on five of its last six possessions.
“The opportunity was there to go either direction, and when you get a little bit of a lead inside that last minute, it’s hard to finish a game. It’s hard to get a win,” OU coach Lon Kruger said. “We gave up a couple of buckets. I thought Texas hit a couple of tough shots during that time. I thought our guys played it pretty well, but Texas is good, so they knocked them down anyway. But I thought our last minute was executed pretty well."
The lesson: hang in there and until good things happen and then pounce when they do.
Freshman point guard Jordan Woodard experienced just how big an impact he can have with three good minutes on the floor. With little less than four minutes left, he’d scored just two points and was having a game he’d like to forget. Then he dominated the final three and really was the difference in the game.
The Sooners will be in a lot of games like Saturdays. They have a lot of offensive weapons, but the inability to play lockdown defense for anything more than short stretches limits their ability to really distance themselves.
Wins and losses in the Big 12 are going to depend on execution in the final minutes. OU (12-2, 1-0 Big 12) will have to do it Wednesday when No. 16 Kansas (9-4, 0-0) visits Lloyd Noble Center.
The victory over Texas was just the first game of the conference season. OU celebrated afterwards because they earned it. Road wins are tough and Texas is a team OU will likely be neck-and-neck the next two and a half months with in the Big 12 standings and judged with and against for an NCAA tournament berth. The Sooners are now ahead.
But staying there means winning many more games in the final minutes.
“The league is really tough, so anytime you can win, let alone win on the road, you are going to feel good about it,” Kruger said. “We’ve got 17 more now, and we talk to our guys all the time about how significant and how tough every one of them is. We’ve got to prepare to play with great energy and great enthusiasm and great focus every night. Tonight was a good start.”
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