Oklahoma (10-2, 1-0 Big 12) escaped Kansas State (8-4, 0-1) 71-69 in its first conference game of the season on Saturday night.
Senior guard Elijah Harkless knocked down a clutch jump shot, putting the Sooners up 67-65 with 35 seconds left. Fellow senior guard Umoja Gibson later knocked down four free-throws to close out the win.
Despite missing three players due to health and safety protocols — including its leading scorer, senior forward Tanner Groves — OU jumped to an early 8-0 lead four minutes into the first half.
The four regular starters — Harkless, Gibson, junior forward Jalen Hill and redshirt senior guard Jordan Goldwire — didn’t miss a beat with Groves out as they combined for 28 of the Sooners’ 33 first half points and finished with 61.
The Sooners’ defense held the Wildcats to only 22 points in the first half, their fewest in a half this season. Despite the strong defensive start early, OU gave up a 9-0 run with 13:31 left in the second half, letting KSU back in the game.
Fifth-year senior guard Mark Smith and sophomore guard Nigel Pack finished with 25 and 17 points, respectively, as the Wildcats exploded in the second half while shooting 9-for-16 from 3-point range.
Harkless and Gibson led the Sooners with 21 and 19 points respectively, each knocking down four 3-pointers, while Hill added 10 points and Goldwire scored 11.
Freshman guard C.J. Noland stepped up off the bench with freshman guard Bijan Cortes and junior forward Jacob Groves out, scoring a career-high 10 points in 24 minutes.
The Sooners shot 40.4 percent from the field and 37 percent from beyond the arc and forced 12 Wildcat turnovers in the win. Next, Oklahoma travels to take on Baylor at 6 p.m. on Jan. 4 in Waco on ESPN2.