NORMAN — Oklahoma basketball coach Lon Kruger still wasn't completely pleased with his team's defense a day after the Sooners beat No. 9-ranked Iowa State 87-82.
“It was better,” Kruger said. “Still streaky.
“But I thought we had some key possessions late that were really important and obviously if you're going to have some good stops, that's when you'd like to get them, but we've just got to keep working.”
After Melvin Ejim's 3-pointer put Iowa State ahead with just under three minutes left, the Sooners made six consecutive stops to put the game out of reach.
The Sooners did so by not giving the Cyclones good looks at the basket and with strong rebounding.
A quick look at the six possessions that sealed the game:
*Jordan Woodard and Buddy Hield keep DeAndre Kane and Monte Norris from getting an open lane to the basket or a good look at a 3-pointer. As the shot clock winds down, Kane tries to get Ejim a good look from the corner, but Ejim's 3-pointer is airballed and Cameron Clark easily grabs the rebound.
*Kane drives the lane right into three Sooner defenders and misses a layup. Ejim follows with a dunk attempt but misses, and Isaiah Cousins grabs the board.
*Hield locks down Kane before Cousins switches over. Naz Long finally gets a 3-pointer off a screen, but Clark defends closely and Hield comes down with the rebound.
*This time, it's forward Ryan Spangler out contesting the 3-point shot from Kane, and Clark brings down the board.
*Clark again comes down with a defensive rebound following another contested 3-pointer (this one by Woodard) by Long.
*Kane drives the lane, but Spangler swats it away. The Sooners get the ball out of bounds.
All of the possessions ended with an OU rebound.
“We got our butts kicked on the boards against Kansas, and that was something that we had under control when we played Iowa State,” sophomore guard Je'lon Hornbeak said. “We came with those big defensive stops at the end. We let a little lead go, but sometimes you've got to grind some games out so we're OK with that. We can get better still.”
Oklahoma's tough start to the Big 12 season continues at 6 p.m. Tuesday when it plays at Kansas State.
The Sooners will head into the game with a different feel than Saturday, when they were bouncing back from the loss to Kansas.
“Getting those big stops not only is a big help in production but confidence,” Kruger said. “It's a huge difference.”