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OU men’s basketball: Sooners pick up 5th Big 12/SEC challenge win after topping Mississippi State, 63-62

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Brady Manek

Junior forward Brady Manek dunks the ball Jan. 25.

OKLAHOMA CITY — Conference pride was on full display during Oklahoma’s (13-6, 3-3 Big 12) 63-62 victory over Mississippi State on Saturday. The win moved the Sooners to 5-2 all time in the Big 12/SEC challenge series.

Oklahoma escaped with the win after a late jumper from Mississippi State’s Robert Woodard II bounced off the rim as time expired, helping improve the Sooners’ nonconference record to 10-3 in dramatic fashion. Junior forward Brady Manek once again led the Sooners in scoring, totaling 18 points on a 54 percent shooting percentage. 

“They're very good defensively,” head coach Lon Kruger said of the Bulldogs. “I thought we had the upper hand in terms of getting down the hill in the first half. I didn't think we had that same advantage in the second … I think we (still have to work on) competing a little longer for better shots, be a little bit more patient. We've got to get better shots.”

The Sooners’ second leading scorer was junior guard Alondes Williams, who put together perhaps his most complete performance of the season — he scored 13 points while shooting 5-9 from the field.

“He was great, I thought he gave his best effort,” Kruger said. “He had three pretty great days of practice … he just showed a little glimpse of what he’s going to do going forward. We're very happy for him and excited for what he can do for us.”

“This really, really good energy for my team and my coaches,” Williams said. “They got me going. I feel more comfortable. It’s a great feeling.”

Williams’ solid performance off the bench undoubtedly gave Oklahoma the edge it needed to win the game. However, as recent history suggests, OU pulling this one out shouldn’t come as too much of a surprise — the Sooners have had the upper hand in the Big 12/SEC challenge since its inaugural year in 2013. 

In fact, as senior forward Kristian Doolittle said ahead of Saturday’s game, this challenge is a welcome well to Oklahoma.

“We’re trying to make it two (series) wins in a row,” Doolittle said. “(Playing in) the Big 12 is very strenuous on the body ... this is a nice change of pace.”

And achieve that second consecutive win is exactly what the Sooners did. Pending on how the rest of the Big 12/SEC shakes out on Jan. 25, the Sooners will only sit behind Baylor for the most wins out of any team in the series.

“There is (conference pride) in this, absolutely,” Kruger said. “It’s nothing you talk about a lot, but there’s a lot of build up to it, a lot of exposure for the challenge part of it. Guys have that on their minds all the time.”

Next up, Oklahoma returns to conference play to face Kansas State at 7 p.m. CT on Jan. 29 in Manhattan, Kansas.

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