Feb. 21—OU had not made a 3-pointer in more than 12 minutes when Umoja Gibson caught a pass in transition and fired a long shot in one motion.
Finally, a 3-pointer fell. Iowa State had erased a 21-point deficit, but Gibson’s trey was a spark in a big stretch during the ninthranked Sooners’ 66-56 win Saturday night at Hilton Coliseum in Ames, Iowa.
It’s OU’s first win at Iowa State since 2011 and the first in the Lon Kruger era.
OU (14-5, 9-4 Big 12) remained second in the Big 12 ahead of Tuesday’s game at Kansas State.
Here are three takeaways:
House of horrors no more
Hilton Coliseum’s curse is over for the Sooners.
But that doesn’t mean the Sooners now enjoy playing in the house of horrors that they failed to win in for a decade.
Even against struggling Iowa State, a huge lead can evaporate, especially in that arena.
OU got sloppy offensively in the second half, committing five turnovers and shooting just 29.6% overall, los ing the huge lead with 11:29 remaining.
“It wasn’t very good in the second half,” Kruger said about the offense. “We were just a little frantic when they were making their run, didn’t finish the plays when we had an opportunity to but again we gotta keep learning from each situation. Plenty from this ballgame to learn from.”
But the Sooners got a big stretch from Austin Reaves, who finished with 20 points, five rebounds and an assist.
He made a second-chance layup on his own miss to regain a 47-46 lead. He then bullied Tyler Harris with a post-up and drew the foul on a jumper, making one free shot.
“We really just locked back in,” Reaves said. “Coming out of the half, we didn’t do a good job staying focused and really sticking to the game plan. We let them get some momentum and come back and take the lead. That’s something we gotta work on.
“But for us to get it back and push it back to 10 was big.”
Gibson followed with the 3-pointer in transition. OU had missed four straight and made just 3 of 15 from deep at that point.
Suddenly, the Sooners were again rolling, building the lead back up to 11 as the defense tightened.
Defensive roller coaster
Two weeks ago, Iowa State hit 16 3-pointers in Norman and really pushed the Sooners to the limit.
This time, the Cyclones made just four.
“Very good, especially there when they did take the lead,” Kruger said. “I thought our next few defensive possessions were really, really solid and really good against the ball and contesting shots, which allowed us to widen it back out.”
After OU lost the lead and immediately regained it, Elijah Harkless blocked Rasir Bolton’s jumper. Bolton missed another trey and Solomon Young missed a jumper as OU regained its composure.
Ultimately, OU held Iowa State just to 39.3% shooting overall. The Cyclones were 4 of 19 from deep, including making just 1 of 8 3-pointers in the opening half.
OU was especially suffocating in the first half, forcing six of the nine Iowa State turnovers, which led to 10 points.
After playing just one game in 13 days, there was concern of rust. But OU answered that quickly.
The Sooners shot 50% overall and made 11 of 13 free shots in the opening half and out-rebounded the Cyclones 20-13.
That led to the 21-point lead with 3:08 remaining in the half with all nine players who entered the game scoring.
“I think it’s kind of the normal now,” Reaves said.
“Coach always preaches, say we’ve got a game tomorrow you don’t know if this will be the last one because of all the COVID stuff or anything, so really just take advantage of it. I think that’s went a long ways to get us prepared and get us ready to go to war every day.”
Kruger said it best after the win.
The last two weeks have been crazy enough that the Sooners played just one game since playing Iowa State on Feb. 6.
“That’s how long these two weeks have been,” Kruger said.
OU was supposed to play Baylor on Feb. 10, but the Bears were unable to play due to COVID-19 protocols. The Sooners beat West Virginia in double overtime last Saturday. They were supposed to play Texas on Tuesday, but weather forced the game to Wednesday and then to an indefinite postponement.
But that didn’t knock the Sooners off track.
“That’s a big challenge,” Kruger said. “The guys handled it well. They were really anxious to play.”