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OU men’s basketball: Sooners’ tournament hopes hit after 83-66 loss to OSU

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Austin Reaves layup

Redshirt junior guard Austin Reaves attempts to lay the ball up during the game against Oklahoma State in Stillwater on Feb. 22.

It wasn’t Oklahoma’s night.

Frustration began to sink in for the Sooners in the final few minutes of their 83-66 loss to Oklahoma State on Feb. 22.

That frustration was depicted as both sophomore guard Jamal Bieniemy and freshman forward Victor Iwuakor picked up technical fouls in the final two minutes of play.

“After the first few minutes, I didn’t think that was much of a battle,” head coach Lon Kruger said. “Oklahoma State was sharp, I thought they were the aggressor, I thought they were terrific in every way. They were quicker in everything, quicker to the ball, quicker to the boards ... especially in the last 30 minutes. We’ve got to learn from it and take big steps.”

One could assume that both players’ frustration stemmed Oklahoma’s 7-26 shooting from 3 on the night, or from Oklahoma State’s 43-30 edge in rebounding, or even from Oklahoma’s 13 total turnovers.

All would be good guesses — it could even be an accumulation of the three — but perhaps OU’s lack of discipline down the stretch is due to one overwhelming statistic: Oklahoma is now on a three-game losing skid.

As the NCAA tournament draws closer and closer, a three-game losing streak is not something a team on the bubble can afford. 

“We’re gonna be about the next game, like we do every one,” Kruger said. “Certainly, it can go either direction for a lot of teams right now. (We have) four games left in conference play, we gotta have the attitude of each game being one we have to have ... that will be the (mindset) for each of the four next games.”

For the Sooners to dance come March, they’ll need to improve in the areas they faltered in tonight — specifically in their rebounding and 3-point shooting performance.

Oklahoma’s poor performance on the glass can possibly be attributed to redshirt junior forward Kur Kuath’s early foul trouble. He picked up three early fouls in Saturday’s game and was sidelined for the majority of the first half. 

The 6-foot-10 big man’s absence for most of the night helped Oklahoma State to score 36 total points in the paint.

“(OSU’s) ability to pound inside and control the paint was a huge part of the first half, and even in the second half, they were great,” Kruger said.

Oklahoma’s 3-point shooting performance was ultimately the dagger for the Sooners on Saturday night.

Junior forward Brady Manek — who had 30 points against the Pokes on Feb. 1 — finished the game with two points and was 0-4 from 3. Senior forward Kristian Doolittle was 1-5 from deep and had 13 points. Freshman guard De’Vion Harmon made the most three of any Sooner on the night, shooting 2-6 from behind the arc.

The only Sooner who did have a good scoring night was redshirt junior Austin Reaves who finished with 22 points, but even he went 1-5 from 3. 

“It’s never just one player,” Reaves said. “It’s a team game. Five guys are on the court for each team. As a player, you gotta do what you can do to see your team get momentum. ... Fight until the end.”

The Sooners take on Texas Tech at 8 p.m. Feb. 25 in Oklahoma City.

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