TaShawn Thomas dominating down low, opening up the mid-range game and 3-point line for Isaiah Cousins and Buddy Hield, and helping the Sooners find the perfect offensive efficiency. Ryan Spangler battling on the inside with Jordan Woodard knocking down just enough shots to keep opponents honest.
If Monday night wasn’t what Kruger thought his team could look like in a dream world, it was sure close.
Playing by far their most complete game of the season, the No. 17 Oklahoma Sooners set a season-high for points scored and matched Iowa State’s tempo – even doing the Cyclones one better.
Oklahoma turned a 10-point, first-half deficit into a 20-point lead in just more than 20 minutes, perfecting the inside-out offense and slowing down the Big 12 Conference’s highest-scoring offense just enough to make a big statement on a big Monday with a 94-83 victory inside the Lloyd Noble Center.
“This shows that Oklahoma is no joke,” said Hield, who was one of five Sooners in double figures. “We’re taking it every game at a time. You just have to get ready for the next one.”
Trailing by 10 points with just more than five minutes to go, Oklahoma (17-7, 8-4 Big 12) went on a 7-0 run to go into the halftime break tied. Hield knocked down a 3-pointer from the wing, bringing the crowd to its feet and eliciting one of the loudest roars of the season.
Thomas, who finished with 22 points, 11 rebounds, five assists, three blocks and no turnovers – one of the best stat lines of the season for anybody, nearly blocked the final shot of the first half into the seats on the next possession down, giving Oklahoma all the momentum heading into the break.
“That was a very important stretch, right there,” Thomas said. “We tied it up, and we built momentum going into the second half. Going into that, we just told each other to stay together. We had to keep fighting. We’re at home. It’s going to be easy for us to get momentum to go with it. We just kept on grinding.”
The run continued into the second half as Oklahoma, which is in lone possession of second place in the Big 12 conference, scored the first six points of the against No. 14 Iowa State (17-6, 7-4).
Oklahoma’s 11-2 run midway through the second half extended the lead after the Cyclones tied it again, but the Sooners had Iowa State down by 20 points with 4:35 to go.
“I felt like I was back in New York City with how fast the game was going,” said Cousins, who finished the game with 19 points on a 7-for-13 performance and actually smiled coming into the post-game interview session. “I haven't had a game like that so it was pretty fun.”
Despite playing at such a frantic pace and attempting a season-high 77 shots – 10 more than any other game in the Big 12, Oklahoma turned the ball over just seven times – the lowest of any Big 12 game.
The Sooners, who had 17 assists on 39 made baskets and attempt just six free throws all game, put together a game that was as near-perfect as it might come. “It was a good team effort,” Hield said. “That’s what we’re capable of doing. Everybody is capable of making plays for each other. We just have to keep doing that, finding guys and keep making plays.”
Spangler finished with a game-high 12 rebounds and 14 points, and Frank Booker scored a season-high 14 off the bench.
Oklahoma, which will play Kansas State on Saturday, has now won five-straight games – its longest winning streak of the season and tied for longest conference winning streak for any team in the Big 12.
“We've got a lot of momentum going on right now,” Thomas said. “That's five games in a row. So we're going to just keep trying to take it one game at a time and I feel like everybody on the team just needs to stay humble. We talk about it every day – not overlooking any team, being ready to play every game. I feel like if we keep doing that we'll be all right.”