Expectations are very high for the Oklahoma basketball team this year and Wednesday night against Creighton was the Sooners' first opportunity to live up to those expectations.
Instead, the Sooners wilted in a raucous road environment and blew an 18-point early second half lead to fall to the Bluejays, 65-63.
After Creighton's Devin Brooks missed two free throws with four seconds left, the Sooners had a chance to win the game at the buzzer, but Jordan Woodard's 3-pointer grazed the rim as time expired.
Creighton is a shell of the team it fielded a year ago led by National Player of the Year Doug McDermott. But the Bluejays showed the cupboard is not bare and can be an especially dangerous team at home where they have now won 21 consecutive games.
For the Sooners, Wednesday's loss will no doubt be a learning experience, but with so much experience back from last year's team, combined with an influx of talent, there's no excuse for losing the way they did. Oklahoma was uncharacteristically sloppy with the ball down the stretch and settled for too many jump shots instead of attacking the rim. An 18-point second half lead shouldn't get away from a good team like the Sooners.
Buddy Hield led the Sooners with 21 points before fouling out trying to extend the game. TaShawn Thomas scored 14 points and added six rebounds, showcasing the tremendous athleticism that showed why the Sooners were so excited to have him eligible for this season.
Ryan Spangler had his second straight double-double and hit three 3-pointers, equaling his season total from last year.
Noticeably absent in terms of their impact on the game were the OU guards besides Hield. Woodard, Isaiah Cousins, Frank Booker and Dinjiyl Walker combined for just 17 points on a terrible 5-of-23 shooting, including 2-of-13 from behind the arc. The Sooners aren't going to win many games with performances like that.
Austin Chatman, the lone remaining starter from last season's Creighton squad, led the Bluejays with 17 points and 11 rebounds. Toby Hegner and Isaiah Zierden each had 11 points.
Oklahoma used a very balanced attack and some really good defense to take a 35-24 lead at halftime. The Sooners shot 41 percent, but hit 5-of-10 3-pointers to hold a solid lead at the break. Oklahoma did a great job on defense, holding Creighton to just 24 percent shooting in the first 20 minutes, including 2-of-14 from 3-point range. Creighton's 10-of-13 mark at the free throw line was the only reason the Sooners didn't lead by more.
The Sooners continued to pour it on out of the gate in the second half, scoring seven straight points to extend the lead to 42-24 with 18:38 to go, forcing a Creighton timeout.
Then the script flipped, as the Sooners went ice cold from the field, while Creighton began to get hot, especially from 3-point range. Oklahoma missed 12 of its next 13 shots as Creighton staged a 24-4 run to take a 48-46 lead with 11:41 remaining on a Zierden 3-pointer. Creighton hit all six of its second half 3-pointers in the first 10 minutes of the half.
Oklahoma got things back under control, taking a 61-57 lead on two Thomas free throws with 3:37 to play, but the Bluejays battled back once more, taking the lead for good on a Zach Hanson putback with 51.4 seconds left.
The Sooners had five turnovers in the final five minutes, all of them proving costly in the end. Several came off poor passes and a few resulted from players leaving their feet without a clue as to what they were going to do with the ball.
Oklahoma takes on Northwestern State at 2 p.m. Sunday at Lloyd Noble Center before taking off for the high-profile Battle 4 Atlantis tournament in the Bahamas over Thanksgiving. While Wednesday will be something for the Sooners to learn from, it would have been nice for Oklahoma to head to the Bahamas with confidence in their minds, not questions.