STILLWATER — For the second time in three days, Cade Cunningham helped Oklahoma State pull away to victory down the stretch against Bedlam rival Oklahoma, completing the regular season sweep with a 79-75 win Monday night in Gallagher-Iba Arena.
On the heels of his 40-point performance Saturday, the freshman phenom was downright timid in the first half as OU ran a multitude of defensive schemes at him. Only attempting two shots from the field, Cunningham went 0-for-2 and cashed in just two free throws before intermission.
“Our guys did a great job," Lon Kruger said of OU's defensive efforts on Cunningham. "It starts with Elijah (Harkless) and Jalen (Hill) on the ball. They did a fantastic job.
"At the end he stepped up and made good plays you’d expect a good player to make."
With the game on the line however, Cunningham once again came alive.
Scoring 13 of his 15 points in the final 10 minutes, he sunk the Sooners' hopes of a Bedlam victory once again with an all-around game that also included seven rebounds and four assists.
Oklahoma would have one last chance, however. With a minute left and down two, Lon Kruger once again entrusted Austin Reaves with the Sooner offense.
Jab-stepping into the lane, Reaves opted to pass the ball off, but hesitated and turned it over, leading to a Cowboy fast break. The senior guard then fouled Cowboy Kalib Boone in transition, which ended up being the right decision as Boone was only able to sink one free throw, extending the OSU lead to three points.
On the ensuing possession, Reaves found Brady Manek for an open 3, but Manek was unable to tie it on what was otherwise his best night of the Big 12 Conference season.
“Honestly I just made a horrible play," Reaves said candidly of his late game turnover. "There’s no option, there wasn’t a play, I just had the ball in my hands and I just made a horrible play. That’s really about it.”
Kruger said he was confident putting the ball back in Reaves' hands to close the game, as he's often been the difference for the Sooners.
“It’s a matter of just making a play. Obviously (Reaves) has made a lot of good plays for us, so we’re gonna get the ball in his hands and he’s gonna get results most of the time," Kruger said. "Sometimes the defense wins.”
After a season derailed by COVID-19, Manek reemerged in an attempt to play hero for his Sooners, pacing all scores with 20 points, drilling 4-of-9 from 3-point range.
Reaves said it was great to see Manek's great performance because OU is going to need more out of him the rest of March.
“It was big. He played really well," he said. "That’s what we’re gonna need from him moving forward is games like this, and we know that he’s capable of it. That’s what we expect of him.”
Not only was Manek doing his part scoring for the Sooners, he worked tirelessly on the glass to turn around Oklahoma’s rebounding woes from Saturday.
"Great to see him have a game like that," Kruger said. "He fought his tail off on the boards as well. Made some shots, yeah, really good to see that.”
Dominated on the glass 45-28 in Norman, OU closed the gap, only trailing the Cowboys 36-29 this time. Manek accounted for nine boards, including five on the offensive glass.
"We did a decent job on our defensive boards," Kruger said. "We didn’t give up too many offensive rebounds as far as numbers go, but a couple of them were critical for sure.
“We missed a lot of shots in the second half too, which skews those numbers when you miss some shots.”
The Sooners cleaned up just about everything they needed to from Saturday's setback, winning the turnover battle and cashing in for more points off turnovers, but they were ultimately unable to overcome Oklahoma State’s size in the paint.
The Cowboys outscored OU 42-26 in the lane, allowing them to convert 53 percent of their field goals en route to the Bedlam sweep.
In what could be his final regular season Bedlam matchup, the senior Reaves struggled shooting from the floor.
Though he finished with 19 points, Reaves only made 5-of-14 from the field, converting 6-of-7 free throws while adding seven rebounds and four assists.
“It’s always frustrating when you lose," Reaves said. "And losing in a rivalry game to Oklahoma State like that in, honestly, two days, three days is tough.
"But I mean, we just gotta bounce back. That’s three in a row now, and we just gotta figure out what we can do to be successful."
Sophomore De’Vion Harmon was good again for Oklahoma, finishing with 14 points on 6-of-15 shooting with four rebounds.
The loss is the third straight for the Sooners, who are now in danger of falling all the way to seventh place in the Big 12, where they would have to play on day one of the Big 12 Tournament.
Oklahoma returns to Lloyd Noble Center for another rivalry game Thursday night, as OU hosts Texas at 8 p.m. on either ESPN.
Reaves said he's confident OU will be able to bounce back despite another quick turnaround.
"Honestly, just get back to work. It’s what we play the sport for, if you can’t bounce back from physical games or anything like that you really shouldn’t be playing," he said.
"So honestly just get back to work and really just figuring out ways that we can be better.”