LAWRENCE, Kan. — Oklahoma hadn’t won at Kansas’ Allen Fieldhouse in 20 years when it stepped on the court Monday night. Many of those losses were blowouts. Games the Sooners simply lacked the prowess and poise to stay in for 20 minutes, much less 40.
That wasn’t the case Monday night.
This was a game of runs where the last was from the Jayhawks.
The loss dropped the Sooners to 20-8 overall and 9-6 in the Big 12. For the time being, they’re technically in fifth place in the league — a half game behind Iowa State and Texas.
That was the reward for standing toe-to-toe with the Jayhawks in the loudest arena in the Big 12 — if not the country.
Playing well wasn’t enough.
“They landed a couple of shots and we landed a couple of shots,” OU forward Cameron Clark said. “I think the main thing is we didn’t take care of the ball at critical times.”
The time was the last nine minutes.
OU led by one point with nine minutes left because it had taken phenomenal care of the ball and stood up to all Kansas’ previous salvos.
The first came in the opening minutes, when the Jayhawks seized a 15-4 lead. The second was a 10-2 run to close the first half and left OU down 42-33 at halftime.
Yet, OU answered both.
The 13-4 run to start the second half that tied the game with 16 minutes to go displayed OU’s tenacity. Guard Buddy Hield scored five of his 16 points during that stretch and 13 of the sophomore’s points came in the second half.
“We handled the ball and made tough plays,” OU coach Lon Kruger said, “but there were two or three stretches that showed why KU is so tough. We just gave them those moments of run you have to try to avoid.”
The biggest issue Kansas presented all night was who to focus on.
All five starters scored at least 12 points. Guards Andrew Wiggins and Wayne Selden both finished with 15. Post players Joel Embiid and Perry Ellis tossed in 11 and 12, respectively.
It was those four OU locked on in the closing minutes. That was where Naadir Tharpe, who scored a game-high 19 points, took over. Ten of his points came in the last 3 minutes, 15 seconds.
“You’re playing against one of the best teams in the country, and they have a lot of weapons,” Kruger said.
OU did, too.
Clark scored 18 points and point guard Jordan Woodard finished with 10 points along with six assists. Forward Ryan Spangler was one point and one rebound away from a double-double.
But OU needed to be perfect down the stretch to win. They were only down three with four minutes left after Spangler hit the one of two free throws and still within striking distance after Hield buried a 3-pointer with 93 seconds to make it a five-point game.
Kansas, which clinched a share of its 10th straight Big 12 regular-season title, relied on Tharpe the rest of the way. OU couldn’t keep him out of the paint or off the free-throw line.
“Tharpe is such a good player that if you get too spaced out, he has the ability to hurt you in another way,” Kruger said.
The Sooners knew that going in. They knew they had to play perfect to win. They were nine points short of it Monday night.
“We fought,” Kruger said. “We’ll grow from this and learn from it.”
Follow me @john_shinn
Breaking news, severe weather alerts, AMBER alerts, sports scores from The Norman Transcript are available as text messages right to your phone or mobile device. You decide which type of alerts you want to receive. Find out more or to signup, click here.