The Sooners overcame their tryptophan hangovers to knock off the Wildcats of Abilene Christian 72-64 in Norman about 24 hours after most Americans sat down for Thanksgiving dinner.
ACU was able to hang tough through most of the game, surprising the sleepy Sooners by leading through halftime and staying close until the game’s final minutes. With 12:46 to go in the game, Jordan Woodard faced an inbounds pass from the baseline on OU’s attacking end. Seeing an ACU defender with his back turned in front of him, Woodard thew the ball at the player, recovered the ball under the basket and finished the layup, drawing a foul in the process.
The play was emblematic of Woodard’s effort, as the senior point guard had to overcome a poor shooting day from the entire OU offense to lift the team over the Wildcats. He led the Sooners with 16 points, while Rashard Odomes had 13. Khadeem Lattin led the way with 9 rebounds.
The Sooners couldn’t find their rhythm early, relying on foul shots for their first points even while struggling from the line. ACU took a surprising 8-2 lead into the first media timeout, though OU’s suffocating man-to-man defense kept the Wildcats from pulling too far ahead.
After an 0-4 shooting start, Matthew Freeman broke the OU drought with a midrange jumper at the 15:38 mark. OU’s second unit found slightly more success against the Wildcats, as Lon Kruger ran with the Strong-Moore/McGusty/McNeace/Freeman lineup with Christian James for large stretches of the contest. Still, the Sooners struggled mightily from the free throw line early, hitting only 4 of 9 in the first ten minutes, 11 of 22 in the first half and 29 of 46 in the game. ACU ran its lead to a game-high 10 midway through the half before OU could muster a response.
A Jordan Woodard three-pointer—OU’s first of the game—finally catalyzed the Sooners offense with 8:49 left in the half. Minutes later, Woodard took a three point shot from the top of the arc and drove forward to grab his own miss off the front of the rim, putting it back to tie the game at 20. Kameron McGusty’s and-1 free throw gave OU its first lead, 23-22, at the 4-minute mark.
But the game remained a dogfight through halftime. Wildcats guard Jaylen Franklin, wing Jaren Lewis and center Jalone Friday led the ACU scoring with 20 first-half points between them, and Abilene Christian’s mediocre 39% first-half shooting was much better than OU’s 30%. Only 8 ACU turnovers and frequent fouls kept OU close—the Sooners trailed 30-26 halfway through.
OU quickly knotted the score at 30 to start the second period, and the Sooners re-took the lead when James drove to the basket, drew the contact and banked in the layup. James missed the free throw yet again, though, and ACU guard Jovan Crnic immediately answered with a three. It felt like OU might never be able to pull away.
Even though Abilene Christian didn’t go to the line as much as the Sooners, foul-line struggles also held the Wildcats back. Trailing by just a few points for most of the second half, missed free throws kept ACU from tying the game. OU took a 5-point lead at the 8:53 mark, its largest of the day to that point. Finally the Sooners were able to start pulling away when Darrion Strong-Moore hit a 3 from the right wing to put OU up by 9.
Abilene Christian was able to draw close again in the late stages, as OU went over 5 minutes without a field goal before a Rashard Odomes dunk at the 2-minute mark put OU back up by 7. Tightening up its free throw shooting late in the game, OU was able to draw fouls and put the contest away.
One game after hitting 5 threes in 5 attempts, Christian James was held scoreless from behind the arc and netted just 4 points on the day. OU was just 3-for-14 behind the line overall.
The Sooners return to action on Tuesday when they take on Northern Colorado at 7 p.m. in Norman.