By Michael Kinney
NORMAN– Heading into the weekend, Oklahoma was considered a fringe team. According to ESPN’s Joe Lunardi, if March Madness were to have started Saturday morning, the Sooners would have been considered one of the last four teams to make the NCAA tournament.
In order to move their way to safer ground, the Sooners needed to add another big win to their resume with only 12 games left on their schedule.
In strolled No. 9 Kansas. Having already lost back-to-back games (Oklahoma State and No. 2 Baylor), they were looking to get back on the winning stride at the expense of OU.
However, the Sooners had other plans. They held off Jayhawks for a 75-68 victory at Lloyd Noble Center. Oklahoma has now won three of their last four games against Kansas and improved to 8-1 at home.
“It was great,” Oklahoma guard De’Vion Harmon said. “It was a lot louder in there than we thought it was going to be. The atmosphere was good. We just fed off the energy.”
Marcus Garrett posted 21 points and 12 rebounds to lead the Jayhawks.
Kansas shot 46 percent from the field and 34 percent from behind the arc.
Harmon paced the Sooners with 22 points on 7 of 14 shooting. Austin Reaves added 16 points and four assists while Umoja Gipson chipped in with 10 points and three rebounds off the bench.
Late in the second half, Oklahoma trailed Kansas 52-49 before they went on a 9-2 run to take the lead. That included a big shot from senior Brady Manek.
Kansas pulled within 63-60 when Ochai Agbaji split a pair of free throws with 3:40 left, but Reaves and Gibson each followed with a driving layup to make it 67-60 and Kansas came no closer than four points the rest of the way.
Led by Reaves, Elijah Harkless and Harmon the Sooners closed out the game at the free-throw line by making 10 of their last 11 attempts. That was enough to put KU away.
With 36 boards, Oklahoma outrebounded the top rebounding team in the Big 12 by 10.
“As a player you have to be ready,” Harmon said. “Doesn’t matter who you are playing. Today was KU, a top 10 team. If you weren’t ready for this one, I don’t know if you should be playing.”
It doesn’t get any easier for Oklahoma (9-4, 5-3) going forward. They travel to Texas (11-2) to face the fifth-ranked Longhorns Tuesday. They will then host No. 18 Alabama (12-3) Jan. 30 in the SEC/Big 12 Challenge. The Sooners will then have a rematch with No. 12 Texas Tech (11-4) Feb. 1.
It’s a tough road for OU, which currently sits in third place in the conference. But they are hoping they can carry the momentum over from its win over the Jayhawks (10-5, 4-4) into this challenging stretch of games.
“It’s always good to beat a team like that,” Reaves said. “Tough, well coached. And the next games aren’t going to be easy. You just do what you can do, win and build off of it and you just move forward. Just give it your all.”
Michael Kinney Media