MuskogeePhoenix.com, Muskogee, OK

OU

March 2, 2014

Sooners thump Horns; first sweep since ’06

NORMAN — The shots weren’t falling, and Texas’ low-post size created havoc for much of the afternoon. So, why was it that Oklahoma coasted to a 77-65 victory at Lloyd Noble Center?

The Sooners’ backcourt put forth a dominant performance on both ends of the floor.

Isaiah Cousins scored a career-high 24 points and Buddy Hield poured in 17, leading OU (21-8, 10-6 Big 12) to its first sweep of Texas since 2005.

“I thought our guys had good focus on what Texas wanted to do and our guys responded with great awareness.” OU coach Lon Kruger said.

Between the three starting guards on both sides, the Sooners’ trio of Cousins, Hield and Jordan Woodard outscored Texas’ starting threesome of Isaiah Taylor, Demarcus Holland and Javan Felix 43 to 16.

But that was only the point discrepancy.

Turnovers were an enormous factor in the game with the Sooners turning Texas’ 16 turnovers into 23 points. OU’s seven giveaways netted just five for the Longhorns.

“They only turned it over seven times and they did a great job with it. They can put you in long possessions and we did not finish,” Texas coach Rick Barnes said.

Cousins was the catalyst for that. He had three steals and all of them converted into transition points.

“It just came with the game. I was very aggressive on defense and it was kind of bothering their offense,” Cousins said. “We got steals by being in the right spot at the right time.”

The time was right because Saturday’s game was a big one for both teams. The win keeps OU in contention for second place in the conference with two games remaining.

It also showed that OU’s backcourt is hitting its stride with the calendar flipping to March. Texas had its way in the paint. Center Cameron Ridley scored 19 points and pulled down 14 rebounds. Jonathan Holmes added 11 and five.

They were more than OU could handle. Ryan Spangler scored five points and grabbed 10 rebounds, but he was limited to 23 minutes due to first-half foul trouble. Cameron Clark scored just six points and didn’t have a rebound. He spent half the game on the bench due to fouls.

Yet, OU’s backcourt made up for the deficiencies.

The Longhorns were just 3 for 19 from 3-point range. Javan Felix, who scored 28 points when the teams met in Austin, Texas, on Jan. 4, scored just two Saturday afternoon.

“Coach keeps telling us we have to play on him and make him make tough shots. He’s the guy that gets them going. He can score in spurts,” Hield said of Felix. “So we tried to do our best switching on him and we did a very good job against him.”

It took a while for OU to get going, but they did not trail for the next 32 minutes, 51 seconds of the game and enjoyed a double-digit lead for the final 15 minutes.

The key: OU never allowed Texas to make any sort of run.

“There weren’t any big low spells,” Kruger said. “I don’t think they scored six straight on us all day. They might’ve had a back to back baskets, but we came right back and responded. We didn’t have too many lows.”

The win, coupled with Kansas State’s win over Iowa State on Saturday, recreated the four-way tie for second place in the Big 12 with two games remaining.

The Sooners host West Virginia on Wednesday and then go to TCU Saturday. They have two highly winnable games to close the regular season. Based on the way OU closed out Texas, it’s clearly getting hot as the regular season comes to a close.

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