NORMAN- The Oklahoma Sooners overcame their toughest test of the season to remain unbeaten.
The Sooners overcame the William & Mary Tribe 75-70 in a game where Oklahoma led for just 2 minutes and 23 seconds the entire night.
Oklahoma coach Lon Kruger thought William & Mary came into the game with a great game plan and executed it at a high level, putting in a great performance.
“Tough ballgame,” he said. “I didn’t think we opened with the energy William & Mary did.”
William & Mary built their lead early in the first half from behind the three point arc. The Tribe made 3-of-6 from deep in the opening eight minutes of the contest.
Center Nathan Knight was also immense for the Tribe, scoring 30 points and pulling down eight rebounds for William & Mary.
“He’s a really good player,” Sooner forward Kristian Doolittle said.
“He had it going and got in a rhythm early and was able to sustain that throughout the whole game making some tough buckets every once in a while.”
Wichita State transfer Austin Reaves helped keep the Sooners afloat.
Reaves finished with 18 points, and had great success getting to the basket to keep Oklahoma within striking distance of the Tribe.
“Austin was great,” Kruger said. “He made some big buckets at critical times when we were trying to stay within reach.”
Oklahoma struggled from the field in the first half, shooting just 39.5 percent from the field.
Brady Manek and Doolittle especially had poor showings, combining to shoot 4-of-18 from the field in the first half.
Despite their struggles, the experienced duo, along with Reaves, would turn the tide for the Sooners down the stretch.
The trio would combine to score Oklahoma’s final 14 points of the game.
Manek in particular came up with two big shots for the Sooners, nailing a three and transition dunk on back-to-back possessions.
Manek’s quick five points put Oklahoma up by two points, a lead they wouldn’t relinquish for the rest of the evening.
“Our guys battled there down the stretch,” Kruger said.
Kruger said he was pleased his team was able to close down the stretch, and that the game would serve as great experience as his team grows this season.
“A great, great learning opportunity. Hard to simulate those late game situations, especially in practice,” he said.
Victor Iwuakor also continues to be a bright spot for Oklahoma, providing energy and production for Kruger’s team off the bench.
In just 11 minutes of action, Iwuakor provided an efficient eight points, only missing one shot. Iwuakor continues to disrupt shots at the rim, blocking one shot while having two other goaltending calls go against him.
“I thought his energy and enthusiasm. . . was great,” Kruger said.
“Great to see that progression out of him and I think we’ll continue to see him improve each week.”
The Sooners will return to action Thursday in their final home game for about a month. Oklahoma will host Maryland Eastern Shore at 7 p.m.