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'He's hurting': Austin Reaves misses potential game-tying layup as Sooners lose nail-biter to No. 15 Texas Tech

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Austin Reaves

Senior guard Austin Reaves falls on a defender during the Dec. 22 game against No. 15 Texas Tech.

With two seconds left in the game, the Sooners found themselves down just two points with sophomore forward Victor Iwuakor at the line and senior guard Austin Reaves set to rebound.

After missing the first of two free-throws, Iwuakor was forced to intentionally miss the next shot. As the ball bounced off the rim, Reaves caught the rebound and found himself in perfect-position to tie the game. However, Reaves missed and displayed visible frustration as he fell to the ground and buried his head into the Lloyd Noble Center baseline. 

“He’s hurting,” head coach Lon Kruger said after the game about Reaves’ miss. “He’s hurting, but he’s a battler and he’ll bounce back because he’s more disappointed than anyone.”

The Sooners (5-2, 1-1 Big 12) dropped their Tuesday night home game against No. 15 Texas Tech (7-2, 1-1), 69-67. Oklahoma struggled offensively, as it shot 41 percent from the field and an abysmal 63 percent from the foul-line. OU couldn’t get over the hump, as it pulled within one possession numerous times but never regained the lead after 18:37 to go in the first half.

Oklahoma struggled to take the lead numerous times, going on scoreless droughts that kept Texas Tech in the game after a run. Reaves and Iwuakor both failed to tie the game as they were on the free-throw line down two points, and after a 7-0 run in the second half that pulled OU within one point, it went on a scoring drought that lasted 3:41.

“Seems like (we were) kind of digging back all night long,” Kruger said. “Down six, down eight, (then we’d) get it down to one possession — maybe even with the ball to go ahead — and just couldn’t quite have a position at that moment to get us the lead.” 

Scoring leaders in Reaves and senior forward Brady Manek struggled, combining for just 15 points on 5-of-21 field goal shooting on a night where the offense struggled to find footing. 

Offensively, the Sooners relied on Harmon, who scored a team-high 17 points and sat just two minutes the entire game. Meanwhile, Iwuakor and sophomore forward Jalen Hill combined for 16 rebounds — seven offensive — off the bench and added a better defensive matchup against Texas Tech’s smaller, faster lineup, which features a maximum height of just 6-foot-7. 

The Sooners' game against Texas Tech was the first of four consecutive against top-15 opponents in No. 7 West Virginia, No. 2 Baylor and No. 3 Kansas. The tough stretch marks the first time in school history OU will face four-straight top-15 matchups.

Fortunately for the Sooners, they likely won’t have to face a defense better than Texas Tech all year. The Red Raiders boast the second-best scoring defense and the seventh-best average in turnovers forced in the NCAA this season. OU was the first team to score over 65 points on their defense in 2020. 

“Their defense, they’re one of the best defensive clubs not just in the Big 12 but in the country,” Harmon said. “So, man, we put up a lot of points, we got good shots against their defense. But I think I’ll give that also credit to us in a way we work on offense.”

OU is heading into its gauntlet Big 12 start with positive takeaways, despite suffering a tough loss. The team was not worried about the defeat, Harmon said after the game, but is instead using it as a learning point and trusting the process. 

“Especially as you’re climbing back, it’s always keep pushing, keep pushing,” Harmon said. “But man, we had great possessions. We definitely got to get more stops on the defensive end, but man, we played a really good game. … I love the way we fought tonight and the best thing is that we’re only going to get better.”

Correction: This story was updated at 11:40 a.m. Dec. 23 to reflect that OU was the first to score over 65 points against Texas Tech in the season, rather than 60.

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