KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Call it Texas Part 2.
Or Oklahoma Defensive Collapse Part 3.
Whatever it is called, Oklahoma’s defense fell apart for the third time in the last two weeks. No Sooner had a field goal in the last eight minutes — missing their final eight shots — and senior Romero Osby, who’s known for dragging the Sooners by their shoe laces to victory, went cold in the last 10 minutes during in the Sooners’ Big 12 Championships opener.
Together, it produced a 73-66 loss to Iowa State on Thursday in Sprint Center.
“It’s probably the most frustrating thing ever,” senior point guard Sam Grooms said. “We don’t finish the game out after we play so well and do everything we were supposed to do. That’s probably the most hurtful part of it.”
The game Thursday looked familiar. As Oklahoma began to blow a 12-point lead with 7:18 remaining, it was reminiscent of Feb. 27, when the Sooners gave up a 22-point advantage to Texas with less than eight minutes in the game. The Sooners lost that one in overtime.
Then last Saturday, OU’s defense didn’t even show up for the first half, and that allowed TCU to build a 25-point lead. The Sooners eventually cut the deficit to one but still failed to pull out a victory.
On Thursday, despite sticking to the game plan — grabbing rebounds, waiting for the right shot and maintaining a strong lead that they built to 14 — the Sooners’ defense shied away from the post in the second half.
OU forwards Osby and Amath M’Baye were often found guarding the perimeter. Iowa State counter-attacked that by doing what they’re not known for: scoring in the paint.
The Cyclones had more points in the paint (36-18), more second chance points (18-11), more rebounds (43-31) and a better game from the floor (26-of-61 compared to OU's 24-of-63).
“Last time we played them at home, they didn’t shoot it really well the entire game,” Osby said. “I knew they wouldn’t just come out and not shoot it well. Eventually, they were going to come out and get shots to go down. I expected it and it ended up happening.”
The contribution of starters Melvin Ejim (a game-high 23 points) and Will Clyburn (17 points) gave the Cyclones 40 of their 73 total points.
Of Clyburn’s 17 points, 15 came in the second half. And 10 of those came during a 2-minute, 10-second period when Clyburn went on a personal 10-2 run against the Sooners.
“He hit a couple shots, and we didn’t respond to him after that,” OU’s Cameron Clark said. “We’ve just got to get stops. That’s all it comes down to.”
But the stops never came.
The Sooners struggled offensively, making just one 3-pointer on 10 attempts in the second half. Oklahoma finished the game 3-of-18 from beyond the arc. Oklahoma is just 3-of-34 on 3-pointers over its last two games.
After the loss, OU’s locker room was one of stunned silence. Clark, who scored 17 points, fought back tears.
Osby was the first one asked what went wrong and why.
“We really didn’t attack on the offensive end like we did in the first half,” Osby said. “We didn’t have the same pop like we did.”
He was frustrated by it. They all were.
Steven Pledger, the only starter who’s been on the team for four years, sat with his head in his hands, coming to the realization that a postseason tournament might be with the letters NIT instead of NCAA.
“Disappointed,” Pledger said of his feelings. “We were supposed to win that game. We had it for 37 minutes and then we let it go.”