A month ago, Oklahoma looked like a potential Final Four team. But the difficulty of Big 12 Conference basketball continued its vicious reality check on Saturday.
Another woeful start led to another loss, 88-80, to Iowa State on Saturday afternoon at Hilton Coliseum. With their performance Saturday, the 17th-ranked Sooners (16-8, 6-6 Big 12) dropped their sixth game in the last eight outings.
“We let them do the things in the first half to get the crowd involved and their confidence up and they did,” Oklahoma coach Lon Kruger told the Sooner Sports Network.
Trae Young scored 22 points and handed out 11 assists. The Sooners picked up a career-high 22 points and 9 rebounds from guard Christian James. Brady Manek scored 14 points and pulled down 8 rebounds.
However, Iowa State (13-11, 4-8) dominated the first half and the final minutes.
Iowa State guard Lindell Wigginton scored a game-high 26 points. Donovan Jackson scored 19 points, including a 3-pointer with 1 minute, 54 seconds to play that gave the Cyclones the lead for good. Cameron Lard dominated the paint, scoring 19 points and pulling down 17 rebounds. Nine of the rebounds were on the offensive end.
But the Sooners were in come-from-behind mode all afternoon. They were down by 17 with 4 minutes left in the first half.
“That’s the reason we lost,” Young said. “We played a terrible first 20 minutes and dug ourselves too big of a hole to get out of.”
Young and Khadeem Lattin connected on a pair of driving layups in the final 25 seconds of the first half to cut Iowa State’s lead to 45-35 at halftime.
Oklahoma continues to struggle beyond arc
Young made layups and went 7 for 7 from the free-throw line. But Oklahoma won’t win many games when he goes 1 for 8 from beyond the 3-point line. Manek went 3 for 7 from 3-point range, but the Sooners connected on just 6 of 27 long-distance attempts.
Iowa State went 7 for 17, but the 3s by Jackson and Wigginton in the final 2 minutes were the difference.
“Those two big 3s created the margin,” Kruger said. “Our guys fought like crazy to get back into and get it even. We had better fight in the second half, but it’s disappointing. You have to find a way to get these games in the right column and we have to play better.”
The Sooners never led in the second half. They tied it up four times in the final 5 minutes. The last time was on a pair of free throws by Young with a little over 2 minutes to go. The Cyclones answered every time.
Oklahoma’s road slump continues
The Sooners haven’t won a road game since claiming the Big 12 opener at TCU on Dec. 30. They’ve dropped six straight away from Lloyd Noble Center.
The loss on Saturday mirrored most of those losses during the stretch. Saddled with a double-digit deficit in the first half, Oklahoma battles back but runs out of gas in the final minutes.
What happened in Ames, Iowa, was nearly identical to the loss at Oklahoma State earlier this season.
It doesn’t get any easier. The Sooners play at No. 7 Texas Tech at 7 p.m. ET on Tuesday.
“We’ve gotta get activity and confidence,” Kruger said. “Right now, we’ve got guys who are little short on confidence. We need to find people that can make a shot a feel better about what they’re doing.”
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