Oklahoma Sooners overcome slow start but can't finish upset win

Khadeem Lattin shines but Sooners wear down late in showdown

LAWRENCE, KS – Stunted by another slow start from point guard Isaiah Cousins, a 27-percent shooting performance through the first 11 minutes (while Kansas shot 53 percent) and a 2-for-8 showing early from behind the 3-point arc, Oklahoma was in trouble Monday night.

Phog Allen Fieldhouse was rocking, and the Sooners couldn’t get anything going on offense, trailing by as many as 11 points in the first half.

Then suddenly, No. 2 Oklahoma settled back into its offense. It stopped making bad decisions with the basketball and took better shots. The result was a 12-0 surge in the final two minutes of the first half and a quick 7-2 spurt to start the second.

“We got ourselves in a little bit of a hole,” Oklahoma coach Lon Kruger said. “I thought offensively, we were creating shots for them. We took some tough shots. We turned the ball over a couple times. Then, we had a few better possessions, and we made shots and had a quick turn. I thought we handled possessions better offensively and kept them from getting out in transition, which got us back in the game in the first half.”

Buddy Hield hit a 3-pointer from the wing before a pair of 3-pointers from Jordan Woodard gave Oklahoma its first lead since the start of the game with 45 seconds left in the half.

Hield then hit three of four free throws after a shooting foul and a technical called on Kansas coach Bill Self.

Before that stretch, Oklahoma (12-1) had hit just two 3-pointers. 

Lattin continues to emerge

Even Oklahoma forward Khadeem Lattin couldn’t look past his missed free throw at the end of regulation, which likely would have won Oklahoma the game before the triple-overtime fiasco even began.

The missed free throw was just a small part of what was likely the best game of his career at Oklahoma. 

“He’s getting better every game,” Oklahoma forward Ryan Spangler said. “Obviously, you can tell that too. Not only is he finishing everything around the rim. He’s running the floor. Most importantly, he’s blocking shots. Whether we get beat or whatever happens, he’s coming over and helping us. That’s the biggest thing for him.”

Lattin, who could be the x-factor for a deep NCAA Tournament run, finished with 10 points and a career-high 14 rebounds. He also matched a career high with six blocks as Lattin continues to develop into an elite rim protector. The highly skilled Perry Ellis, a senior who scored 27 points Monday, never overmatched Lattin defensively.

“He’s getting a little more physical defensively, finishing some things offensively,” Kruger said. “He’s got a good bounce to what he does. He blocked a lot of shots. He’s getting better.”

Mason slows Hield just enough

Kansas point guard Frank Mason picked up his fourth foul with 21 seconds left in regulation. Then, Hield spent the rest of the game trying to get Mason his fifth, because despite Hield’s 46 points, the smaller guard slowed him.

“He did a good job,” Hield said. “Despite how much I had, he really fought against me.”

Face guarding Hield for much of the game, Mason allowed Hield just 13 points in the three combined overtime periods but forced him into a trio of bad decisions.

Fighting fatigue

By the end of Monday night’s epic Big 12 Conference showdown, both teams were visibly worn down. While Kansas played 10 players – seven more than eight minutes, Oklahoma played just six players more than 10. Five different players played at least 50 minutes.

Hield, who has played all but one minute of the past two games combined, was in for an Oklahoma record 54 minutes. Ellis and Mason played 53 minutes each. 

Oklahoma made its last non-foul substitution with 6:17 to go and made just that one sub after the nine-minute mark of the second half. All five of Oklahoma’s starters played all but the final 10 seconds of the overtime periods, when Woodard fouled out of the game.

“They deserved to keep going if they could,” Kruger said. “They wanted to for sure. Obviously, it would be tough for someone to step in there and get in the flow. I think both teams had a little bit of a feel for guarding each other. Someone new to step in and get in that flow would have been difficult. We talked about it but didn’t change.”

Up next…

Oklahoma returns to action on Saturday with a home matchup against Kansas State at 3:30 p.m. The Wildcats were the only team to sweep Oklahoma last season.

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