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Oklahoma Basketball: Sooners’ comeback effort falls short in 69-62 loss to Kansas

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The first half was brutal, and the second half broke our hearts.

NCAA Basketball: Big 12 Conference Tournament-Oklahoma vs Kansas Jay Biggerstaff-USA TODAY Sports

On Thursday, the No. 25 Oklahoma Sooners (15-10) nearly pulled off a monster comeback against the No. 11 Kansas Jayhawks (20-8), but ultimately fell short, 69-62 in the quarterfinal round of the 2021 Big 12 Tournament. With the loss, OU returns to Norman to await official word on its seeding from the NCAA Tournament committee.

No David McCormack, no Tristan Enaruna, no problem for KU. Despite missing both the junior forward and sophomore guard for the entirety of the conference tourney due to COVID-19 protocol, Bill Self’s squad is moving on to the league championship semifinals. Meanwhile, practically every Sooner that took the floor on this night looked in over his head for much of the game. Seniors Austin Reaves and Brady Manek led the way with 19 points apiece (13-27 combined FG).

From the early going, it was clear that OU was going to have an extremely tough test ahead of it when almost every possession either ended in a miss or a turnover. For a brief moment, the Jayhawks struggled through some offensive issues of their own, but eventually they found their rhythm while continuing to shut down the Sooners. Amazingly, Oklahoma shot just 30 percent (6-20) from the field over the course of the game’s opening 20 minutes. After trailing by as many as 23, Reaves scored his first and only bucket of the half down the stretch to make it a 35-15 contest at the break.

In the second half, Oklahoma looked like a completely different team on both ends of the court. Reaves morphed into his All-Big 12 First Team form, while Manek and junior guard Elijah Harkless also stepped up to the challenge and turned a potential blowout into a highly competitive contest. On two separate occasions, the Sooners cut the Jayhawks’ lead to just three points, but unfortunately for Lon Kruger’s crew, KU had an answer for every OU run. In the end, it was a commendable comeback effort for the Crimson & Cream, but the damage from the first half was simply too great to overcome. Some more late-game issues are also very much to blame, as the ball once again stuck to Reaves’ hands down the stretch. This should’ve been addressed long ago, and it REALLY needs to be addressed before the team tips off in Indianapolis.

Up next, Oklahoma will tune in on Selection Sunday (Mar. 14) to find out its seed in this year’s NCAA Tournament. The first round of March Madness is scheduled to tip off on Friday, Mar. 19 and Saturday, Mar. 20.

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