MANHATTAN, Kan. — Maturity had been Oklahoma’s calling card all season. That savvy allowed it to dig out tight victories on the road multiple times this season.
That shrewdness didn’t make the trip to Kansas State on Saturday. The Sooners’ 69-60 loss to the 16th-ranked Wildcats at Bramlage Coliseum showed what happens when it loses that sense.
“When you play a top-ranked team, you have to play better than we did to win,” OU coach Lon Kruger said. “We didn’t play at that level, largely because of Kansas State.”
The Sooners (12-4, 3-1 Big 12) were hoping Saturday would be their chance to make a national statement against a ranked team. For most of the first half they were in position to do so. They led throughout most of the first 16 minutes. The goal of keeping Kansas State guard Rodney McGruder bottled up and making the rest of the Wildcats beat them was working.
Then, McGruder exploded like a bottle of champagne, nailing a trio of 3-pointers in a 97-second span to give the Wildcats a lead they never relinquished.
“In the first 10 minutes, they definitely outplayed us,” Kansas State coach Bruce Weber said. “We jumped on Rod’s back.”
When McGruder, who scored 20 points, nailed the last trey in that run to give Kansas State (15-2, 4-0) a five-point lead with a little over three minutes left in the first half, a sedated crowd of 12,528 went crazy.
“I think when they made those two or three 3s at the end of the first half,” Kruger said, “we went from having the lead to being down five. That happened pretty quickly, and anytime that happens the crowd gets into it.”
The Sooners’ attempt to seize control of the game was doused by 16 turnovers, which the Wildcats turned into 26 points. Only seven of the turnovers were steals. The rest were errant passes.