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OU's Elijah Harkless goes up for a shot during the Sooners' game against Houston Baptist University, Wednesday, Nov. 23, 2021, at Lloyd Noble Center. 

The final scoreboard showed an easy 57-40 victory for Oklahoma over Houston Baptist.

What it didn’t show, however, was that the Sooners looked to be in danger of losing the game in the first half.

The Huskies (1-4) discombobulated the Sooners’ (5-1) offense in the opening 20 minutes. It took the Sooners nearly five minutes before they scored their first basket, and they trailed the Huskies 27-22 half.

In their first five games, the Sooners had made 52 percent of their shots. At halftime on Wednesday, the Sooners were shooting 31 percent from the field and 8 percent (1-of-12) from the 3-point line.

“We had a very aggressive conversation at halftime,” OU coach Porter Moser said. “... I wasn’t happy at half. They knew it. A fly on the wall could know it in the locker room.

The Sooners came out with a different energy in the second half on both ends of the floor.

Umoja Gibson and Tanner Groves opened the second half with back-to-back 3-pointers, which led the Sooners to an 18-0 run to take control of the game. The Huskies never threatened again from that point on.

The Sooners shot much better in the second half, hitting 44 percent from the floor and 30 percent from the 3-point line.

But it was the Sooners’ defense that kept Houston Baptist at bay. The Sooners defense held the Huskies scoreless for the first seven-and-a-half minutes of the second half and just 13 points in the second half.

“Anybody who watched the way we guarded the first 15 minutes of the second half was different than how we guarded in the first half,” Moser said. "... The thing is, besides our defense that was night and day different, it was the ball movement. The ball was really popping around the perimeter and getting better shots than [when] it was just kind of stuck and stagnant with it. Thought we took a couple of quick shots. I thought the ball was popping in the second half compared to the first."

Even as the offense struggled, the Sooners stayed in the game by forcing 21 Houston Baptist turnovers. The Sooners scored 32 points off those turnovers.

Moser pointed to Elijah Harkless and Jordan Goldwire for setting the tone defensively in the second half. Harkless finished with a game-high 13 points and two steals, while Goldwire contributed 11 points, a steal and a block.

Goldwire also credited Harkless for his effort in the second half.

“His energy was contagious,” Goldwire said. We switched everything one through four and he was getting after whoever he was guarding and made it tough for them. He was able to get to the foul line. He's a leader on the team. He has a voice. He comes every day and puts work in. That's a guy I respect a lot and I'm happy to have him on my team.”

Despite the poor first half, it was a good bounce back win for the Sooners after last weekend’s tough 3-point loss to Utah State. But now the Sooners hit the road for a game against UCF (4-0) at 1 p.m. on Saturday.

“They can really shoot it,” Moser said. “They play fast. They shoot the 3 quick in transition but they're an older, veteran, winning team and it's going to be a great game for us on the road. But we're gonna have to put this behind us and regroup over Thanksgiving and then travel the day after Thanksgiving to play a really, really good team on Saturday.”

Jesse Crittenden is the sports editor of The Transcript and covers OU athletics. Reach him at jesse@normantranscript.com or at 405-366-3580

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