OU finds a way around Texas' reach

Sooners figure out a way to avoid Longhorns' block, rely on bench in win

TaShawn Thomas had done everything he could and everything his coaches told him to do.

He jumped up with two feet. He tried to be resilient and just kept attacking in the face of the heavy Texas frontcourt. Oklahoma coach Lon Kruger even had his own suggestion: Pump fake.

“I was like, ‘I am,’” Thomas said with a laugh. “They kept getting it.”

Texas finished with 13 blocks Tuesday night, but eventually, No. 17 Oklahoma figured out a way around.

For Thomas, it was pump-faking. He faked three times before one shot in the final minutes and hit the ensuing free throw to tie the game with 2:31 to play.

“That last one, I had it in my head that I was going to do at least one or two extra pump fakes,” Thomas said. “It actually worked for me. I was just happy that I finally got that last one it. It was a big one to tie the game too.”

Oklahoma (18-8, 9-5) didn’t have to worry much about the Texas bigs in the first edition of the Red River Rivalry. They were almost no existent.

The impact was much great Tuesday, especially from freshman Myles Turner, who blocked six shots on his own.

“It was very tough,” Oklahoma point guard Jordan Woodard said. “They are long and athletic. None of us are scared to go in there. That’s what we do every day, no matter who we’re playing.”

Texas came into the game with a plus-9.9 rebounding margin – second in the nation. The Longhorns finished with just three more rebounds than the Sooners.

Bench comes up big Oklahoma had been far too dependent on its starters this season, and when the entire starting lineup went cold early, Kruger had to go to his bench.

Luckily, Frank Booker and Dinjiyl Walker were ready to contribute like they never had before.

“That was big for us,” Oklahoma guard Buddy Hield said. “We keep asking for bench production. . . . Hopefully, they keep that confidence up. We’re going to need that down the stretch. Every game we play now.”

The Oklahoma starting five shot just 25 percent in the first half. Before Tuesday, Walker had just five combined points in the previous eight games.

He had 10 against Texas, including a perfect 2-for-2 from behind the arc. Booker also had 10 points, his second double-digit scoring output in the past three games.

“Dinjiyl and Frank are good about trying to stay aggressive and be ready when the moment comes,” Kruger said.

Live by the 3 At least for one night, Oklahoma survived because of its 3-point shooting.

In losses when the Sooners reverted back to poor offense, the 3-point shot became a favorite. It was once again Tuesday night, but Kruger joked after the game that it was for a different reason.

“13 times we would have rather shot a 3 than have it swatted back at us,” he said.

Oklahoma didn’t finish the game with more made 3-pointers than two-point field goals, but it certainly shot better.

The Sooners, who also had just five turnovers, finished the game 8-for-19 (42.1 percent) from behind the arc and only 14 of 42 (33.3 percent) from in front of it.

The last one, a 3 from the corner by Jordan Woodard, was by far the biggest – starting the Sooners final run and keying one of the most important stretches of the season.

“The crowd got into it,” Thomas said. “We started jumping around, talking. Everybody was just on their toes on defense. We started getting steals and stuff. When Buddy got that steal and the dunk, that brought a lot of energy to everybody too. When Jordan hit that 3, that’s what started it all. We just kept riding after that.”

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