FT. WORTH- For the second time in as many trips, Austin Reaves dominated the TCU Horned Frogs inside Schollmaier Arena.
Though he didn’t wait until the final possession to win the game, Reaves led all scorers with 32 points in Oklahoma’s 82-78 win to open Big 12 Conference play.
“Just a really hard fought game,” Sooners coach Lon Kruger said afterward. “Back and forth all the way.”
In just their second game of the season, Oklahoma looked to start the game out of rhythm. The Horned Frogs had already played four times, while Oklahoma had to cancel or postpone two of their first three matchups due to a COVID-19 shutdown.
“I didn’t think we were very sharp in the first half,” Kruger said.
The Sooners rallied from a nine point deficit in the first half, closing strong to end the first half down just three points.
“Much better in the second half,” he said. “Proud of the guys and the way they hung in there.”
Oklahoma shot better out of the break, paced by Reaves’ 20 second half points. Attacking the rim, Reaves was able to get to the free throw line 11 times in the second half alone, converting 10-of-11 free throws.
Reaves credited his teammates and coaches for setting him up for success against the Horned Frogs.
“They put me in good positions to succeed and that’s just what I tried to go out there and do,” he said. “Whatever I can do to help our team win.”
Playing a different role this season, the sharpshooter has become Oklahoma’s primary ball handler. Dealing out nine assists while only logging one turnover, Reaves said he feels comfortable in a role he’s always viewed himself in.
“I’ve never classified myself as a shooter, the world has because when I went to [Wichita State], I had to play my role,” he said. “I’ve always had point guard tendencies and that’s what I like to do.”
“It’s always fun getting your teammates involved,” Reaves said.
Senior forward Brady Manek also helped turn the tide. After starting 1-of-5 shooting, Manek found his rhythm to end with 14 points and six rebounds.
The slow start never worried Reaves as the team has full faith in what Manek can do, he said.
“You don’t really have to say much, I mean maybe ‘you’re good’ every now and then or something like that,” Reaves said. “We kind of just let him do him and good things are gonna happen.”
The Sooners also cleaned up their rebounding out of the half, which helped steady the team. After allowing the Horned Frogs to out rebound them 20-13, Oklahoma won the rebounding battle 18-13 in the second half.
“That’s going to be a concern all year,” Kruger said. “I thought [we rebounded] much much more aggressive in the second half.”
Perhaps the most important rebound of the game came from Alondes Williams in the final minute of the game.
Leading 79-77, the Sooners put the ball in the hands of Reaves to try and seal the game with under 30 seconds.
Reaves pulled up from just beyond the midcourt logo, and his shot clanked off the rim toward the Sooner bench.
Williams was able to fight off the Horned Frogs for the rebound and fed Manek for an easy layup to extend the lead to four points with eight seconds left on the clock.
The win gave the Sooners a lot of confidence as they will now prepare to play Xavier on Wednesday, Reaves said.
“It’s our second game and there are a lot of things we can work on, but coming down here and getting a road win against a good team is big,” Reaves said. “But now it’s on to the next, just watch film and get better.”