Oklahoma escapes Texas with upset victory

Holding off a late Texas surge, the Sooners survived a 3-of-15 shooting start to upset their second straight top-10 opponent
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For the second straight game, the Oklahoma Sooners upset a top-10 opponent.

Facing a shorthanded Texas team, No. 24-ranked OU topped the fifth-ranked Longhorns 80-79 Tuesday night at Frank Erwin Center in Austin.

Austin Reaves

Austin Reaves

"Really happy for a lot of the guys, individually are doing a great job," OU coach Lon Kruger said after the game. "They're playing their role, playing their minutes, picking each other up and supporting each other."

Oklahoma had to overcome a horrid shooting start to pull the upset. After starting 3-of-15 from the field, the Sooners caught fire.

Despite the early struggles, guard Austin Reaves said Oklahoma never wavered.

"We really just stuck to what we was gonna do, and then it all fell into place," Reaves said. "We listened to coach, his game plan and really we just stuck to that and executed it better."

A 15-2 run gave OU the lead midway through the first half — a mark it wouldn’t surrender for the rest of the night.

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Reaves picked up where he left off against Kansas on Saturday, pacing the Sooners with 12 points on 4-of-8 shooting in the first half. De’Vion Harmon and Umoja Gibson add 9 and 8 first half points, respectively, and OU heated up to shoot 12-of-18 for the rest of the half.

Kruger praised the senior's performance in a tough road battle.

"(Reaves) had a great game, he was just terrific," Kruger said. "Controlled a lot of it all night long and his experience came through."

Taking a 43-34 lead into the half, Oklahoma let its roster depth take over. Texas, missing head coach Shaka Smart after he tested positive for COVID-19, only had eight scholarship players available to play.

Compounding the Longhorns' personnel problems, OU attacked the basket relentlessly out of halftime, putting Texas in foul trouble early. With 16 minutes remaining in the game, the Sooners had pinned four fouls on UT’s Royce Hamm Jr., Kamaka Hepa and Matt Coleman III.

"You always want to attack the rim a little early and try to get in the bonus to get easy free throws, points on the board," Reaves said. "Coach (Kruger) was just harping on getting to the rim, getting fouls."

True to their No. 5 ranking, the ‘Horns did have a last surge in them. Cutting the Sooner lead to as little as four, Texas threatened to make the comeback.

Alondes Williams

Alondes Williams

The OU response came from emerging role player Jalen Hill. As he did against Kansas, the forward hit a huge 3 to push the lead back out to seven points.

Hill would go on to nail three triples on the night, accounting for all nine of his points. 

The Sooners needed Reaves one last time, however.

Coleman cut the OU lead to a single point with 37 seconds left in the game, and the Sooners called a timeout to get the perfect play. Putting the ball back in Reaves’ hands off a screen, Coleman fouled the senior, sending him to the line for two shots.

Doing well to not turn the ball over or commit a charge, Reaves said he just relied on his instincts on his final possession.

"You just got to make the right play in the end of the game like that," he said. 

Reaves sunk them both, pushing the lead back to three with 18.3 seconds still on the clock.

Elijah Harkless

Elijah Harkless

Texas missed its desperation 3, but in the chaos to grab the rebound, Hill sent the Longhorns to the free throw line. The ‘Horns sunk them both, but they were unable to force a turnover on the following inbound play and had to foul Hill. Hill missed both free throws, but Texas inbounds prayer under two seconds was intercepted by Elijah Harkless and Oklahoma escaped with a one point victory.

Kruger said his team could have avoided the struggles in the last minute, but he was happy they pulled out the victory.

"We were kind of searching and a little bit of wanting the clock to run out instead of locking in there and doing, you know, guarding like we need to," he said. 

In the end, Reaves led all scorers with 23 points on 7-of-15 shooting, adding six rebounds and four assists. His backcourt parter Harmon added 13 points as well on an efficient 6-of-10 outing from the field, also adding six rebounds and an assist.

Consecutive wins against top-10 opponents have the Sooners flying high at the moment.

"It's major. And we got to keep it going," Reaves said. "Not get too confident but have that confidence that we can beat anybody in the country."

The road doesn’t get any easier for OU as the Sooners host No. 9 Alabama at 11 a.m. Saturday for their portion of the Big 12/SEC Challenge.