NORMAN- Austin Reaves returned to the lineup Saturday morning to help his Oklahoma Sooners get back in the win column, taking care of the Iowa State Cyclones 79-72 back in the Lloyd Noble Center.
Missing the matchups against Alabama and Texas Tech due to COVID-19 contact tracing, Reaves didn’t need any time to shake off the rust.
Leading the way for OU in the first half, the senior guard posted 12 points on 4-of-7 shooting, attacking the rim and earning his way to the free throw line where he was a perfect 4-of-4. Reaves finished the game with 16 points, eight rebounds and eight assists, supplementing Elijah Harkless’ OU-leading 19 points (a career high for Harkless as a Sooner).
Undeterred by Reaves’ hot start, the Cyclones found a shooting rhythm of their own in the first half. Entering the day as the Big 12’s resident cellar dweller, Iowa State shot 58 percent (8-of-14) from deep in the first half, well above their season average of 32 percent from 3.
"I thought Iowa State played great," Sooners coach Lon Kruger said after the game. "We didn't do the job we needed to getting to their 3-point shooters and they made us pay for that."
As a result, the Cyclones headed into the break down just four points.
Confidence flowing, Iowa State wouldn’t wilt in the second half.
The two teams battled deep into the second half, with Iowa State turning up the intensity on the defensive end of the floor.
Even though the Sooners shot 55 percent (29-of-53) from the field, Iowa State flipped the script on Oklahoma, harnessing great defensive effort to force 13 OU turnovers.
Reaves said OU must remember the value of each possession to cut down on the turnovers in their next outing.
"Every possession in the Big 12 is key," he said. "You can either spark something and go on a 10-0 run, 10-2 run, or you can be on the opposite end of that. "
Late in the game, the Sooners found their spark.
OU held the Cyclones to a near five minute scoring drought, racing out to an 11-0 run over that period to extend their lead.
Brady Manek, returning to the starting lineup for the first time since he missed 12 days due to COVID-19, was key to the Sooner victory, especially late.
"Brady really really battled and worked at it, and then offensively made some plays double teamed in the post," Kruger said. "He rebounded the ball like crazy all day long."
Though he only finished with nine points, the senior dominated on the boards. Pulling in a career-high 15 rebounds, Manek logged the most boards of any OU player in a game this season.
He was also able to run the offense out of the low post, setting up his teammates with four assists.
"Probably one of the better games I've felt coming into," Manek said. "Sometimes you block out and the ball doesn't come to you, and I felt like it was coming right to me today. It was weird."
Harkless reprised his late game scorer role as well, scoring nine points in the final three minutes to help ice the game for OU.
"He does all the little things," Reaves said of Harkless. "We know what he can give us on offense and we believe in him."
Transfer Umoja Gibson also did his part, adding 18 points, including 4-of-9 from 3, for the Sooners in their return to Norman.
It wasn’t pretty, but the Sooners survived with a victory and will now have an entire week to refocus on their next opponent.
Originally slated to play No. 2 Baylor on Wednesday, COVID-19 issues within the Baylor program forced the game to be postponed. Kruger’s Sooners will next take the court on Saturday in Morgantown to face the No. 17 West Virginia Mountaineers.