The Norman Transcript

January 23, 2014

Late run keeps Sooners from upset at hands of Horned Frogs

By John Shinn
The Norman Transcript

NORMAN — Oklahoma avoided the trap, but it flirted with disaster until the final minutes against TCU Wednesday night at Lloyd Noble Center.

The 25th-ranked Sooners (15-4, 4-2 Big 12) topped the Horned Frogs, 77-69, in as unconvincing a fashion as possible — pulling away in the final three minutes.

Perhaps, it was inevitable that OU would have a let down after playing four straight games against ranked teams and then coming home to face TCU (9-9, 0-6), which remains the Big 12 Conference’s only team without a league win.

“There’s that,” OU coach Lon Kruger admitted. “They come in with their record and our guys are going to hear and they know it and they talk about it. It’s nothing intentional, but there’s a human-nature element you have to fight off.”

At times, the Sooners did that. With four minutes left in the first half, they were up by 11. With 10 minutes left in the game, they were up by 10. Both times, OU let TCU off the hook.

It wasn’t until the final three minutes — when OU closed the game with an 11-3 run — that the Sooners finally put the game away.

A loss would have been a disaster for the Sooners. They moved into the Top 25 for the first time since 2009 last week.

Wednesday night was supposed to be the easy, but little looked easy for the Sooners. Ryan Spangler scored 13 points and pulled down a career-high 16 rebounds. Buddy Hield led OU with 16 points and Cameron Clark added 15.

“We couldn’t get in a rhythm, but I give credit to them (the Horned Frogs),” Spangler said. “Then didn’t let us run our stuff as good as we usually do. They kept us from pushing it out and slowed the game down. We didn’t get in the rhythm we wanted to.”

Scoring wasn’t OU’s problem. It shot 47.3 percent (26 for 55) and was 8 for 18 from 3-point range. Clark was 3 for 4 beyond the arc.

The problem was every time it had a chance to pull away it let up. After Clark’s steal and layup with 10 minutes to go gave OU a 59-49 lead. OU quickly gave up back-to-back 3-pointers to Amric Field, who scored 15 points, and another to Kyan Anderson, who scored a game-high 23 points.

The Horned Frogs shot 43.1 percent (25 for 58), but were just 5 for 17 from 3-point range. They stayed in the game by scoring 24 points off OU’s 15 turnovers and turning 12 offensive rebounds into 14 points.

OU stopped giving those up in the final minutes. It scored on its last five possession and didn’t give up an offensive rebound during that run.

“At that point, you have to lock in there and not feel bad about where your at, feel like you have an opportunity to win a ballgame,” Kruger said. “I thought the last five possessions on both ends were pretty solid.”

They were, and it was just enough for the Sooners to eke out a victory. The opportunity for a convincing one will have to wait until another day.

John Shinn

Follow me @john_shinn

jshinn@normantranscript.com

 

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