For a moment it looked as if the Oklahoma-Kansas rematch would turn into the thriller we all watched at the beginning of January, but the Sooners failed to make a field goal in the last 2:52 of the game and watched KU celebrate a 76-72 victory inside of Lloyd Noble Center.
Player of the year candidate Buddy Hield missed a game-tying free-throw attempt with 26 seconds left in the game, but it was Isaiah Cousins’ wildly contested miss from behind the arc with 14 seconds left that decided OU’s fate.
Lon Kruger’s squad didn’t do itself any favors early in the game, with KU jumping out to a 20-to-6 lead mostly due to the Sooners lack of three-point makes. OU began the game shooting 0-for-9 from behind the arc before Cousins finally ended that drought with 7:45 remaining in the first half.
Kansas (21-4) was dialed in defensively in the first half and KU head coach Bill Self assigned Devonte’ Graham the task of slowing down Hield, which turned out to be a tremendous decision. Graham made Hield work for everything he got, and limited the Bahamian senior to 0-for-6 shooting in the game’s first 20 minutes.
Despite Hield’s early struggles, Oklahoma was able to get back within five points at intermission after Christian James provided a spark off the bench late in the half.
OU came out of halftime firing on all cylinders, and both Cousins and Hield drained three-pointers which gave OU its first lead since the score was 2-0. OU looked like they would runaway not long after they got up 57-52, but Kansas had a run of their own on the horizon. The Jayhawks reeled off a 7-to-0 run to reclaim the lead and the momentum with 7:15 left.
Both teams battled down the stretch with Graham and Hield nailing one big shot after another while a sold out LNC watched in amazement. Unfortunately for the Sooners, Kansas was able to tighten up the defensive clamps, which was so pivotal in the first half, and forced the Sooners into making poor decisions in the game’s final few minutes.
After a poor first half, Hield shot 5-of-9 after the break and finished with 24 points and four rebounds, while Cousins added 21 points of his own. Jordan Woodard was the only other OU player in double-digits with 10 points, but the junior only shot 3-of-12 from the field.
Graham was incredible for KU on both ends of the floor, and the sophomore finished with 27 points on 8-of-13 shooting. That’s a pretty impressive stat line for a kid who had to expend so much energy defending Hield on the other end. Frank Mason III totaled 14 points while Perry Ellis notched 10 points and seven rebounds.
OU (20-4) will be back in action on Wednesday when they take on Texas Tech in Lubbock.