By John Shinn
The Norman Transcript
NORMAN — With 20 seconds to go, all of Oklahoma’s starters were sitting on the bench late Saturday afternoon. There was no more they needed to do. The Sooners had already put away Kansas State at Lloyd Noble Center. The only thing to be determined was the final score.
It wound up being 86-73, but the 13-point margin gave a skewed version of a game that wasn’t nearly that close.
OU (20-7, 9-5 Big 12) led by as many as 27 points midway through the second half and led by double digits throughout the final 28 minutes.
It was the Sooners’ first game since last Saturday’s 77-74 victory over Oklahoma State. The six days to prepare for the Wildcats were time well spent.
“The week off was good for us. I thought we had our best week of practice on the year,” OU coach Lon Kruger said. “Monday, we knew we had to improve some things. I thought we transferred a lot of that to the game.”
It wasn’t the 50.9 percent shooting effort (28 for 55) that made the day’s work impressive. Nor was it allowing the Wildcats (18-9, 8-6) to shoot 50 percent (27 for 54) that made OU stand out Saturday.
They controlled the game from the early minutes and didn’t let up until this one was decided.
“Just come out in attack mode,” OU guard Buddy Hield said after scoring a team-high 18 points. “Coach has been preaching we need to guard better. Our team did a very good job guarding the ball and making shots in the first half. That’s what got our spark going.”
Defense is what got the Sooners going. Kansas State was just 9 for 23 in the first half. The 10 turnovers OU forced during the opening 20 minutes turned into 17 points. Three of them came early in the Sooners’ 23-3 run midway through the first half that paved the way to a 41-22 halftime lead and blew the game open.
Isaiah Cousins scored 17 points and had two steals, while Hield had three steals.
“It is a credit to them for scheming to get us in a bind and then they got turnovers off it,” Kansas State coach Bruce Weber said. “That led to transition baskets.”
Kansas State (18-9, 8-6) received a game-high 21 points from freshman guard Marcus Foster and Nigel Johnson came off the bench to score 11. They had to work for every shot. The Wildcats only had five second-chance points and 10 fast-break points with eight of those coming in the second half.
The win avenged OU’s 72-66 to the Wildcats on Jan. 14 in Manhattan, Kan.
The difference in the games was the Sooners’ intensity throughout. There was a 30-minute span in there were OU dominated on both ends. Only the opening minutes and closing minutes left something to be desired.
There was a lot to feel good about. OU left Lloyd Noble Center in a three-way tie for second in the conference with Texas and Iowa State. Staying there for more than a day is the tough part. It faces No. 8 and league-leading Kansas at 8 p.m. Monday at Allen Fieldhouse.
“It’s the nature of Big 12 play,” Kruger said. “We’ve played 14 now and it seems like every time we’ve finished a game we’re looking at another really good team a few days later.”
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