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Oklahoma Basketball: Shorthanded Sooners fall to Kansas, 63-59

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OU was without two key players in Lawrence on Saturday, but the team hung tough and nearly pulled the upset.

NCAA Basketball: Oklahoma at Kansas Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

Inside Allen Fieldhouse, the Oklahoma Sooners were narrowly bested by the No. 6 Kansas Jayhawks (10-2, 4-1), 63-59. With the loss, OU falls to 6-4 on the season, 2-3 in Big 12 play.

Senior guard Austin Reaves led all scorers with 20 points on 7-13 shooting and 4-4 from the charity stripe. He also led his team with nine rebounds while also adding three assists and a steal. As a slight bonus, sophomore forward Victor Iwuakor stepped up off the bench in the absence of senior forward Brady Manek and sophomore forward Jalen Hill (COVID-19 contact tracing protocol) by contributing five points and a respectable seven boards.

Considering Lon Kruger was without the services of Manek and Hill on Saturday, the Sooners actually started the day relatively well, jumping out to as much as a seven-point lead within the game’s first five minutes. However, that surprising advantage was short-lived, as Bill Self’s talented Jayhawks quickly found a groove that would eventually put them on the high side. Usually, that’s the point where KU imposes its will and never looks back, but OU stuck to its plan and kept on playing. A late run to end the half allowed Oklahoma to regain the lead at the break, 33-31.

Turnovers were a major factor that helped Oklahoma stay in the game until the final minute. KU lost a total of 16 possessions thanks to the Sooners’ stifling defense. As the Jayhawks began to pull away in the second half, OU turned up the heat and battled back to re-take the lead on multiple occasions. The back-and-forth frenzy down the stretch would ultimately favor the home team, but even with this contest resulting in yet another loss for Kruger’s squad, it’s a performance that they can build on going forward. Having said that, earning the first win in Lawrence since 1993 would’ve been awfully nice.

Up next, Oklahoma returns home to welcome TCU (9-4, 2-3) to the Lloyd Noble Center on Tuesday, Jan. 12. The Sooners have won their last seven meetings with the Horned Frogs dating back to the 2017-18 season, including an 82-78 win in Fort Worth last month. Tip-off for this one is scheduled for 6:30 p.m. CT and will stream exclusively on ESPN+.

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