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Oklahoma Blows Another Lead, Falls to Butler 66-62

Despite leading for a majority of the game, the Sooners suffered their second defeat of the season on Tuesday night.

NORMAN — Oklahoma’s march through their non-conference slate hit another bump in the road on Tuesday night.

Despite leading for most of the night, the Sooners needed some magic late to stay alive.

Elijah Harkless delivered, knocking down a do-or-die 3-pointer with two seconds on the clock to send the contest to overtime, but OU was unable to ride the wave of momentum to a victory.

Chuck Harris ultimately buried the Sooners with a clutch triple of his own, and OU fell to the Butler Bulldogs 66-62 in overtime at the Lloyd Noble Center.

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The loss dropped the Sooners to 7-2 on the season, and saw Butler move to 6-3 on the year. 

Harkless looked to have give Oklahoma all the momentum heading into overtime, as he ignited another nice home crowd with his game-tying 3-pointer in regulation.

“We just kind of got stuck in the corner and it was the last opportunity to get a good shot,” Harkless said after the game. “It just happened to be me that had it, and I just took it with confidence."

Down three again at the end of overtime, the OU was unable to conjure Sooner Magic for the second time on the evening, as Umoja Gibson’s couldn’t connect on a triple of his own.

“I thought we actually executed that little play to get Mo (Gibson) a good shot,” OU head coach Porter Moser said after the game. “I’ll watch the tape, but I thought we went up the sidelines, the hook play, I thought we did a nice little job getting Mo a shot in that.”

Gibson said he thought he felt contact, which negatively impacted his shot.

“I got a clean look,” Gibson said after the game. “I thought the guy fouled me, but at the end of the day it is what it is. The ref didn’t see it, so we’ve just got to take it on the chin and move forward.”

OU started strong defensively, holding Butler to three different four-plus minute scoring droughts over the first 25 minutes of the contest, allowing them to separate themselves and keep the Bulldogs at arm’s length early in the second half.

But things got interesting with about 10 minutes left to go in the game, as the Bulldogs moved to a 2-3 zone which caused fits for the Sooner offense.

A 12-point OU lead was cut to three with a quick 9-0 Butler run, and the Bulldogsc outplayed the Sooners down the stretch. 

“We work so much on getting the ball in the middle of the zone,” Moser said. “And the crazy thing about it is they’ve played eight possessions of zone all year, but we literally worked on it for three or four days. Every day, we did a zone segment in practice.

“… It starts with me. I’ve got to get our guards to know how to play it. We’ve got to bring them up, get it, hit a gap. I just thought we were playing catch against the 3-2 zone and then settled for a 3.”

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On the other end of the floor, the Butler was able to take advantage of their size inside and begin to dominate the offensive glass.

The Bulldogs pulled down 15 offensive rebounds on the night, converting those boards into 10 easy second chance points which proved to be the difference.

“We got out-toughed on the boards,” Moser said. “Plus 13. Butler got 13 more rebounds than us. We’ve been, if you look at our analytics, we’ve been better at boxing out all year, and we didn’t tonight.

“We’ve got to get way more defensive rebounds from some other guys. They had 15 offensive rebounds. I don’t think it’s even close. Maybe Utah State, our loss and this loss, it’s a simple parallel. Both games came down in regulation to one possession, and both games we just got pounded on the offensive glass.”

For all the good work Tanner Groves has done offensively, the Sooners are still looking for a consistent go-to guy down the stretch.

Last time out against Florida, Jalen Hill was able to power OU down the stretch.

Tonight, Harkless hit the big shot to send the game to overtime, and then he added five quick points to start the extra period, but his teammates didn’t offer much help in crunch time.

“Unequivocally we are still looking for those guys,” Moser said. “EJ (Harkless) hit a big shot to send it into overtime. But we had a number of empty possessions leading up to that EJ shot - a number of empty possessions. You just can't have that many empty possessions. It starts with me. I'm going to get us better. But we have to make some plays.”

Harkless led the Sooners with 16 points in the losing effort, with Tanner Groves and Goldwire both adding 10 points to the cause.

The Oklahoma shooters went cold in the second half, hitting only 37.5 percent of their field goal attempts in the second half to allow the Bulldogs back into the game.

All told, the Bulldogs only led for 3:14 all night, but escaped with the victory in the Big 12/Big East Challenge.

The road ahead doesn’t get any easier for the Sooners.

Up next, they’ll head to the BOK Center in Tulsa to face off against future SEC foes, the No. 12-ranked Arkansas Razorbacks.

Tip-off from Tulsa is scheduled for 12:30 p.m., and the game will be broadcast on ESPN2. 

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