Oklahoma Sooners win despite miserable first half, lack-luster defense

OU sets itself up for a No. 1 vs. No. 2 matchup against Kansas on Big Monday

NORMAN – All season, Oklahoma has found a way to overcome what would have been an almost-guaranteed loss just a year ago.

Almost double-digit minutes without a basket: Oklahoma still won its way into the Diamond Head Classic championship against Hawaii.

Late-game, must-score situation: The Sooners pulled out the season opener against Memphis.

On Saturday night against Iowa State in the Big 12 Conference opener, Oklahoma played arguably the worst half of the season. Some of that was Iowa State’s defense. Some of it was the spotlight of a top-15 matchup to start the Big 12 Conference season. Then again, a lot of it was Oklahoma and the Sooners’ inability to move the ball effectively.

The end result was still a four-point victory. Oklahoma continues to be far more resilient than ever before under Lon Kruger.

“Seemed like we were battling uphill for much of it,” Kruger said. “. . . We didn’t have the movement that we needed in the first.”

No. 3 Oklahoma (12-0) had one its worst single-half 3-point shooting percentages of the season while still attempting more than its season average. Nothing fell for the Sooners especially for Isaiah Cousins, who went 0-for-6 from the field in the first half.

Iowa State rolled multiple defenders at Sooners’ star Buddy Hield, who came into the game averaging nearly 25 points per game and scored 14 in the first half. He finished with 22 points.

“There were guys just on me the whole time,” Hield said. “They were trying to make it tough for me. I had some good shots, but they just didn’t fall for me now. They did a pretty good job on me. I just have to make shots, get locked in and focused.”

With a rowdy crowd behind them in the second half, the Sooners made a run – but Iowa State kept knocking down shots (56.3 percent from the field in the second half).

Kruger said the crowd was “maybe as loud as any arena” in which he has coached. The crowd came on at the right time, but so did the right form of Oklahoma’s offense – the one that makes the extra pass to get the wide-open shot, not just the open one.

Oklahoma’s shooting percentage jumped to 50 percent and it made eight-times as many 3-pointers as the first half despite taking three fewer shots.

The Sooners saw a jump in assists and a drop in turnovers and just found a way to win again.

Now, they’ll have to forget about the win pretty quickly because a matchup with Kansas is less than 36 hours away - the first Big 12 Conference 1-vs-2 matchup ever and the first inter-conference matchup nationwide since 2007.

“It’s going to be fun,” Hield said. “It’s a matchup that everybody is going to be watching. We’re going to handle out business. We’re going to go up there, watch film and execute. Kansas is a good ball club. We’ve got to be locked in and focused. The crowd is going to be after us. We have to be ready.”

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