NORMAN- The Oklahoma Sooners overcame an early three point onslaught from the Houston Baptist Huskies to win 84-65 in their last non-conference game before the resumption of Big 12 play.
Behind a 6-of-12 shooting performance from behind the arc, HBU trailed the Sooners 38-35 after the first half. Out of the break, an increased emphasis on defensive effort allowed Oklahoma to gain control and put the game out of reach.
“In the second half when we popped a little bit there defensively I thought our activity was good and we created a little bit of a margin,” Lon Kruger said after the game.
Kruger also said the Sooners struggled to get into rhythm on offense in the first half, but the defensive effort in the second half helped create some offense.
“It didn’t seem like we moved the ball very well. The ball hung up more than you’d like,” Kruger said. “We got it going there a little bit in the second half, we got some things in transition and a lot of that was keyed by some activity on the defensive end.”
Sophomore forward Victor Iwuakor was the spark who ignited the Oklahoma defense out of the intermission.
Finishing with 12 points on 6-of-8 shooting as well as grabbing three rebounds, Iwuakor played with relentless effort on the defensive end of the floor in his 19 minutes.
“We knew we had to bring that energy in the second half and we were able to do that,” Iwuakor said after the game. “We just could tell we weren’t ourselves and weren’t playing the way we should.”
Expanding his game, Iwuakor has shown he can be more than just a slasher offensively in limited action this season.
He’s started to develop his jump shot to go along with his defensive prowess.
“A lot of times you need someone to go in and make a play or create something that creates more energy and Victor kind of does that naturally,” Kruger said. “It’s very important.”
After missing the first two games of the season, Iwuakor has started to settle back into the flow of live game action he said.
“It’s just been one of those things where you just have to get over it,” Iwuakor said. “I try to just get into the game flow and hopefully be 100.”
As the Sooners grew their lead in the second half, senior stars Austin Reaves and Brady Manek were able to rest ahead of the huge conference tilt with Texas Tech on Tuesday.
In limited minutes, the duo was still productive.
Reaves led the Sooners with 15 points on 4-of-7 shooting. He continued to impact all phases of the game adding four rebounds and five assists to his efficient evening.
Manek got it done inside the three point arc against HBU, finishing with 13 points on 6-of-12 shooting while collecting two rebounds.
Alondes Williams also was efficient, finishing with 10 points on 4-of-7 shooting.
So far this season, Williams has done a nice job of doing more for the Oklahoma offense as he has felt more comfortable attacking the basket and making plays with the ball in his hands, Kruger said.
While he is pleased with the depth on the team, Kruger said the Sooners will have to start more disciplined on Tuesday against Texas Tech, who currently sit at number 14 in the AP Poll.
“Gotta play more good possessions out of the 40 minutes for sure,” Kruger said.
Tip-off against the Red Raiders is scheduled for 6 p.m. on Tuesday night from the Lloyd Noble Center.