It took Oklahoma nearly 26 minutes of game clock to grab its first lead against William & Mary.
The Sooners led 47-46 with 13:08 remaining in regulation after Austin Reaves knocked down two free throws. William & Mary guard Rainers Hermanovskis put the Tribe back on top 11 seconds later, however, with his lone made three-point attempt of Monday’s contest.
“A tough ball game,” OU coach Lon Kruger said. “I thought William & Mary did great. They dictated to us much of the night.”
The Sooners (4-0) eventually overcame a frustrating battle, tying the score and reasserting momentum in the final three minutes of a 75-70 victory at Lloyd Noble Center.
Harrah native Brady Manek sparked OU’s late surge against William & Mary (4-1).
First, he set a screen for Reaves, rolled to the right wing and drilled a three-pointer to tie the score at 68.
Freshman De’Vion Harmon then telegraphed a Luke Loewa pass on William & Mary’s ensuing possession. He took his time making his way down the floor before dumping the ball off to Manek, who went vertical for the go-ahead dunk with 2:15 to go in the second half.
OU held onto the advantage with a clutch last-minute jumper via Reaves and a trio of free throws in the final 20 seconds to put the game away.
“Our guys battled there down the stretch and had some good defensive stops, big buckets on the offensive end,” Kruger said. “But a great learning opportunity, hard to simulate those late-game situations, especially in practice, but to go through it and to step up there.
“You know, Doo [Kristian Doolittle] getting down a couple free throws, Austin getting a big bucket there late, Brady getting back to back buckets when we had to have them. Really proud of the guys stepping up.”
It’s nothing new for Doolittle and Manek to step up in big spots.
The veteran Sooners continue to be essential to the team's success, even on a night when it trailed for almost 34 minutes.
Manek had just 10 points but his late buckets made the difference, considering OU was able to take the lead only twice on seven opportunities when the score was tied.
Doolittle, OU’s lone senior, made 7 of 21 shots for 19 points and was perfect from the free-throw line, going 5 for 5 to go with eight rebounds.
Reaves, who had a team-high nine boards, scored 18 points on six shots.
His final make from the floor came on a pull-up jumper from the left elbow to put OU up 72-68. It was a moment the Newark, Arkansas, native says he’s trained for since sitting out the program's 2018-19 campaign following his transfer from Wichita State.
“It was good,” Reaves said. “That’s what you prepare for the whole year that you’re sitting out. It’s just good to be back out there with my teammates.”
Through four games, Monday’s win was OU's smallest margin of victory of the year.
William & Mary shot 46.7 percent from the floor while OU shot 41.8 percent in its first home game since Nov. 5.
OU survived a 30-point performance from William & Mary senior Nathan Knight, who was 13 of 18 from the field and knocked down a pair of triples.
“He’s a really good player,” Doolittle said. “He had it going and got in a rhythm early and then was able to sustain that throughout the whole game, making some tough buckets every once in awhile. We just didn’t key in on him as much as we needed to. He was able to take advantage of our breakdowns on defense.”
OU can still benefit from the challenge Knight presented as it moves forward. The next opportunity is against Maryland Eastern Shore at home on Thursday.
“We realize it, we got a lot of work to do,” Kruger said. “Good to win and learn, and that’s what will come out of it tonight.”