Oklahoma Basketball: Defense leads Sooners to first road win at Texas since ’15

Oklahoma Basketball was looking to start conference play at 2-0 with a rare road win at rival Texas. A late run in the second half helped secure the victory.

Before going into the gauntlet that is Big-12 conference play, Oklahoma Basketball went 9-3 out of conference, with their three losses coming to Stanford, Wichita State, and Creighton.

They opened conference play on the fourth at home against the former Big-12 champions, Kansas State, where they won by the score of 66-61 thanks to some late heroics by Austin Reaves as he scored 18 points in the final 10 1/2 minutes to lead the Sooners to a comeback win.

Playing at home has become a huge advantage for Oklahoma, as they’re undefeated at home this season. Playing on the road has been a slightly different story, as two of Oklahoma’s three losses have come away from Norman.

Last night they played their conference rival, Texas on the road. A place they haven’t won at since 2015, and a place Texas has yet to lose at this season.

Texas was up by as much as nine points late into the first half, before their offense stalled, allowing Oklahoma to get back into the game, and eventually come into the locker room at halftime with a 34-33 lead thanks to an Austin Reaves turnaround off-balance fadeaway jumper that touched nothing but nylon as he fell to the ground. He finished the game with 10 points and 4 rebounds.

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Oklahoma only allowed 29 second-half points, while scoring 38 to win by the score of 72-62.

Kristian Doolittle scored 22 points and grabbed eight rebounds, continuing to be a matchup nightmare.

Doo had a breakout game in Texas as a freshman three years ago, scoring 29 points, although that game ended up in a loss. But not this time, as the senior will finally walk away a winner. “I’ll cherish this one” Doolittle said, “The rivalry game means a lot to me. Just being from Oklahoma, it’s always been horns down from where I’m from.”

Jamal Bieniemy was the teams second-leading scorer, as he scored 11 points, to go along with four rebounds and three assists, as he provided some scoring help, as Brady Manek had his second straight game this season scoring under 10 points, as he finished with eight points with a pair of rebounds and assists as well. Another notable player production-wise was De’Vion Harmon, who has adjusted to his new role off the bench with last night being his fourth straight, as in 20 minutes he produced nine points, three rebounds and three steals, doing most of his damage late in the game, helping the Sooners pull away.

Some quick thoughts on the game

Oklahoma survived an off night from the foul line. The Big-12 leaders in free throw percentage shot just 10 of 18 foul shots (55.6%) opening the door to let the Longhorns stay in the game. If Oklahoma wants to stay undefeated in conference play, they can’t afford another night like this from the line.

Another new trend I’d like to never see again? Brady Manek scoring under 10 points in a game. OU has three players in the top 10 in the Big-12 in scoring with Doolittle, Reaves, and Manek. But this is two games, two conference games at that where Manek has yet to score 10. It’s good to know that when one of our Big three struggles, that guys like Bieniemy and Harmon can step up, and we did win both of the games Manek struggled, but if this team wants to be near the top in conference standings, and win some games in March, they’re going to need Manek to not have those off nights. Especially two in a row.

I really liked what I saw from the struggling Harmon. Coming into this season I had really high hopes for De’Vion, and perhaps too high of expectations. Harmon started off the season hot with a 23 point debut game, but has cooled off in a big way, and has recently started coming off the bench. But last night, Harmon was a huge spark late into the game, and really was one of the main reasons we pulled away near the end. I loved seeing the kid get his swagger back showing emotion after some clutch moments in the game, and hope he continues providing a spark for this team off the bench or plays his way back into the starting lineup. Harmon is this team’s X-Factor.

Next: Big 12 power rankings entering conference play

When he plays well, along with Doolittle, Reaves, Manek, and Bieniemy, this team will be hard to beat. The better Harmon plays, the better this team is. His play will dictate how well we play in March. It’s a lot of pressure for the freshman, but if Harmon plays well this team could go further in March than what people expect.

Watch for Harmon to build on this game as the Sooners go on the road again to play Iowa State on Saturday.