Booker provides spark in OU win

OU needed something from its bench to beat a team like Iowa State. On this night, it was Frank Booker's turn.

NORMAN, Okla. – There are a lot of strengths when you’re talking this year’s Oklahoma basketball team. The Sooners have that go-to scorer in Buddy Hield.

OU has post presence in Ryan Spangler and TaShawn Thomas. The Sooners have shown the ability to turn up the defensive intensity.

But one glaring spot of weakness has been the bench. The energy? Definitely there, but the execution has left a lot to be desired.

And OU was looking like it was on that way once again vs. Iowa State on Monday night when Frank Booker emerged.

The sophomore scored 14 points in 16 minutes off the bench as 17th-ranked OU rolled to a 94-83 victory in front of a raucous crowd at Lloyd Noble Center.

“Huge,” said coach Lon Kruger about the spark Booker provided. “We haven’t had that from our bench. He helped us stay in touch, keep us within reach. We need production from the bench. That was a big plus.”

Booker didn’t enter the game until 11:25 was left in the first half, but he immediately made his impact known by draining his first two 3-pointers in the first half.

And he put the exclamation point on a 30-point swing in the game with his final 3-pointer giving OU an 88-68 lead and one statement-making victory. OU has won five consecutive games.

Booker has shown glimpses of nights like this. But too often Booker will become overly reliant on his perimeter shot. On a night when his shot was falling, Booker wasn’t afraid to change up his style of play.

He was 4-of-6 from 3-point territory but finished 5 of 10 from the floor. His willingness to put the ball on the floor and make the defense respect his driving ability allowed the outside jumper to come that much easier in the second half.

Booker’s 14 points were OU’s only bench points, but once again, the energy was there. Freshman Khadeem Lattin pulled down six rebounds in nine minutes and both provided reasons for the 7,400 to stand up and cheer.

The key, obviously, will be where Booker and OU’s bench go from here. Is this an isolated incident? Or the start of a furious close by the Sooners?

Booker, who no doubt struggled during the early part of the season and was hampered by injuries, seems to be finding his groove. It couldn’t come at a better time for him or for the Sooners.

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