Momentum is fleeting. If No. 16 Oklahoma didn’t know it Saturday afternoon, it did Saturday evening. The Sooners’ lost theirs with a 66-63 overtime loss to Kansas State at Lloyd Noble Center.
It was the loss OU coach Lon Kruger tried to warn his players about. Few listened.
“That’s human nature,” Kruger said. “We talked all week about are we good enough and mature enough to handle a couple good ball games and take care of business again?
“It’s a tough lesson, but the message is we weren’t.”
The Wildcats had lost three of four prior to Saturday’s game. Only a five-point win over TCU Wednesday night ended the losing streak.
They didn’t look like a struggling team at Lloyd Noble Center. Kansas State led the majority of the game and quickly countered every time the Sooners (11-4, 2-1 Big 12) pulled ahead.
It was an ugly offensive game for OU. Buddy Hield scored a career-high 31 points and TaShawn Thomas scored 14 points and pulled down 11 rebounds.
Beyond those two, little clicked.
OU shot just 40.4 percent (23 for 57) from the field. Remove Hield and Thomas from the equation and it was just 7 for 29. Hield made all five of OU’s 3-pointers.
Still, OU was up four with 2 minutes, 25 seconds remaining. It didn’t make another basket until overtime and Ryan Spangler missed the front end of a one-on-one with 33 seconds left that was enormous.
Kansas State’s Marcus Foster only scored 14 points, but he dominated the final minute of regulation and overtime.
His runner tied it with six seconds to go and his 3-pointer with 4 ticks left in overtime gave the Wildcats the lead for good.
“I was struggling at the time, so I was just trying to concentrate so that my next shot was going in,” Foster said.
Kansas State (9-7, 2-1) shot 45.5 percent (30 for 66). It also received uncharacteristic performances. Forward Stephen Hurt entered the game averaging 4.9 points and 3.5 rebounds. He scored a team-high 15 and pulled down eight boards.
The Sooners received uncharacteristic efforts as well. The 12-for-19 effort from the free-throw line was an oddity. But the biggest surprise was the Wildcats’ ability to dictate the game on both ends of the floor. They outrebounded the Sooners 40 to 37 and grabbed just about every loose ball.
“They won those little battles that go unnoticed sometimes.” Kruger said.
Kansas State coach Bruce Weber hoped the Sooners would be coming off a high on Saturday. The 70-49 victory over Texas certainly gave the Sooners’ momentum.
By the middle of the first half Saturday, it looked a lot more like overconfidence.
“I feel like we came out ready. The guys wanted it. Kansas State just came out and popped us,” Hield said. “They had guys stepped up, guys who stepped up and just made shots. Credit to them. We just have to go back, and hopefully, we get them back up in Manhattan.”
Better start with Tuesday night at No. 14 West Virginia. The nature of the Big 12 this season means those that lack focus will pay a price.
Kruger tried to hammer that message home in that four days OU had to prepare for the Wildcats. The lesson did not sink in.
“We weren’t quite doing the things we have to do to win,” Kruger said. “That’s what happens you’re not quite as sharp. That’s human nature. That’s why these things happen.”