The Oklahoma Sooners held on and took care of business against the Mississippi State Bulldogs in the seventh annual Big 12/SEC Challenge, winning 63-62 in OKC. With the win, OU improves to 13-6 on the season, and 5-2 over the course of this interconference series.
From the tip, Oklahoma’s defense was locked in and suffocated Mississippi State’s offense. With under seven minutes remaining in the first half, the Sooners led the Bulldogs, 28-13 for their largest advantage of the day. Those opening 13 minutes of the game are likely what sealed MSU’s fate, despite chipping away the rest of the way and even taking a one-point lead late in the contest. Missing star forward Reggie Perry to foul trouble for most of the day also severely impacted the Bulldogs’ chances.
While Mississippi State made a game of it in the second half, the effort it took to close the gap took its toll. Meanwhile, Oklahoma found enough offense through junior forward Brady Manek (18 points) and freshman point guard De’Vion Harmon (nine points) to keep the Bulldogs from ever building too much momentum. It was a back-and-forth affair down the stretch, but for the most part, the Sooners remained in control both on the scoreboard and with their poise on the floor.
Speaking of offense, junior guard Alondes Williams scored a season-high 13 points off the bench on Saturday, including 3-4 from deep and this steal he quickly converted into a breakaway dunk.
A steal and slam by Alondes Williams gets Trae Young on his feet. pic.twitter.com/wPVogPhMKf— OUHoops (@ouhoops) January 25, 2020
Even after an uphill climb for the majority of the day, MSU still had a chance to steal a win from OU at the buzzer. Sophomore guard Robert Woodard II missed a mid-range jumper from the top of the key, but shortly after the ball bounced off the rim and into the hands of a Bulldog, the time expired.
With eight points and nine boards, this game marked just the second time this season senior forward Kristian Doolittle failed to record double digits in both scoring and rebounding. The one other time that happened was in a losing effort against Stanford in November. It’s no secret that he’s the Sooners’ best player, so when his teammates can pick up the slack like they did to come away with a win, it’s a great sign.
Overall, this was an important outcome for Lon Kruger’s team. Now sitting at seven games over .500 with 12 games remaining before postseason play, Oklahoma has a nice opportunity to solidify a strong case for NCAA Tournament consideration.
Up next, Oklahoma returns to Big 12 play with a road contest at Kansas State for its first conference rematch of the season. In the first meeting, the Sooners defeated the Wildcats, 66-61 inside the LNC. Tip-off is scheduled for Wednesday, Jan. 29 at 7 p.m. CT and will stream exclusively on ESPN+.
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