What OU couldn’t overcome were the 14 turnovers it committed.
Kruger shuffled his backcourt throughout the game to find something that resembled success against the Wildcats. Starting guards Steven Pledger and Je’lon Hornbeak spent more than half the game on the bench and combined for just two points. Freshman guard Isaiah Cousins made two of OU’s three 3-pointers and Sam Grooms, who didn’t play at all in the first half, wound up being the Sooners’ go-to player in the final minutes.
“Sam gave us a good spark,” Kruger said. “He gave us some attack and we didn’t have much attack. Sam got it going downhill a couple of times and we needed that. He gave us a good lift when he went in the ball game. He made some nice plays.”
The two biggest were a 3-pointer from the top of the key with 55 seconds left that cut Kansas State’s lead to 50-48. Grooms made another with a driving layup with 13 seconds that tied the game for the first time since the 7:30 mark in the first half.
But winning required one more play and Kansas State’s Angel Rodriguez blew by Grooms to make it.
The Wildcats’ point guard darted by Grooms and into the body of OU forward Amath M’Baye to get to the free-throw line with 5 seconds left. Rodriguez made both free throws.
“I was expecting the ball screen,” Grooms said. “They had been running them all night, and he had been going right. He went left. He beat me. Credit him.”
Grooms got off the Sooners’ last gasp — a contested 25-footer at the buzzer — but it was short. Another stretch of February games starts with another brutally tough loss.
The Sooners, who haven’t had a losing streak all season, face Iowa State at 6 p.m., Monday at Hilton Coliseum in Ames, Iowa. They’ll go there with the full knowledge of just how hard it can be to win conference games at this point in the season.
“Today’s reminder is that we still have a ways to go,” Kruger said.
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