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OU men's basketball: Victor Iwuakor's energy off bench sparks Sooners to win over Houston Baptist

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Victor Iwuakor

Sophomore forward Victor Iwuakor celebrates with sophomore guard De'Vion Harmon during OU's win over Houston Baptist on Dec. 19.

Victor Iwuakor sprinted to the basket after a Sooner defensive rebound as sophomore forward Jalen Hill brought the ball down the court.

Hill slowed down the offense and swung the ball back to sophomore guard De’Vion Harmon, who spotted the sophomore forward Iwuakor under the basket without a Houston Baptist Husky in sight. Harmon dished it down to Iwuakor who did the rest — slamming home a monstrous dunk to put OU up 10 points with just under 10 minutes left.

Iwuakor finished the afternoon with 12 points — 1 shy of his career high. In his fourth game back from a COVID-19-related absence, he provided a much needed boost off the bench for the Sooners, who looked a little out of sync offensively in the first half. Iwuakor helped OU with 10 of his 12 points coming in the second half, and Oklahoma (5-1, 1-0 Big 12) cruised to an 84-65 win over the Huskies (1-7).

“(Iwuakor) is always gonna give us a lift.” Oklahoma head coach Lon Kruger said. “His energy and effort were great. I like what he does defensively, and offensively he knocked down a couple jumpers and (finished) at the rim. Really great to see that out of Victor.”

The Sooners were also led by senior guard Austin Reaves, who continued his hot start to the season. He finished with 15 points, five assists, and four rebounds. Senior forward Brady Manek also pitched in 13 points.

One thing that helped OU tremendously was the use of its reserves. Kruger emptied the bench, with all 16 Sooner players getting minutes. Iwuakor had 12 points, junior North Texas transfer guard Umoja Gibson contributed with a pair of threes, and Hill tallied four points of his own. Kruger indicated how important a role having those reserves will play as the Sooners get into the height Big 12 competition.

“It was great to have the depth to create a margin,” Kruger said. “It is great to have versatility and depth to put people in the ball game and know they are going to make good plays.”

The Sooners know that the road ahead doesn’t get any easier, as they will roll into Big 12 play with their next four games being against AP Top 25-ranked teams. Players like Iwuakor could be the difference, and he expressed his desire to help the Sooners win.

“Coach always expects me to bring energy when I get on the court, so I try to do that every time I get a chance.” Iwuakor said. “I hold myself accountable for that, just giving my all every time I step on the court.”

The win marks the Sooners third-straight, and they will look to build off the victory as they square off against No. 14 Texas Tech (6-2, 0-1) at 6 p.m. Dec. 22 in Norman.

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