LAWRENCE- The Oklahoma Sooners headed to Allen Fieldhouse to start the most crucial stretch of their season.
With four of the next five games coming against ranked opponents, the Sooners had to travel to the most hostile arena in the conference in search of a win.
Ultimately, the Sooners fell to the third ranked Kansas Jayhawks 87-70 behind an excellent sharp-shooting display from Jayhawk guard Marcus Garrett.
Here are three takeaways from the trip to the Phog:
The game plan worked… sort of:
From early on, Lon Kruger’s game plan was apparent: collapse on Udoka Azubuike and make somebody else hit shots and beat the Sooners.
Unfortunately, Garrett and Isaiah Moss were up to the challenge. The Jayhawk duo combined to shoot 7-of-12 from deep and put up 32 points.
Even though the interior defense was solid, Azubuike still wiped the Sooners clean on the glass. Azubuike’s six offensive rebounds helped power the Jayhawks to a 14-4 advantage in second chance points. The dominance of the defense boards also assured the Sooners would get no mulligans on the offensive end of the floor, a bad recipe for an upset in Allen Fieldhouse.
Doolittle hitting his stride:
After a rough patch at the start of conference play, senior forward Kristian Doolittle has now posted three straight double digit scoring performances for Oklahoma.
Leading all scorers with 27 points, Doolittle will need to keep up his scoring to give his Sooners a chance over the next two weeks.
Even when he isn’t scoring, Doolittle is essential in getting the offense moving and grabbing rebounds. But Oklahoma will be a hard out in any tournament setting if Doolittle and Manek can score together.
Bright spots off the bench:
Sooner star Brady Manek was forced to the bench with 10 minutes left in the first half after picking up his second foul.
At points this season, this would have been a death blow for Oklahoma, but the Sooner bench stepped up to keep Oklahoma hanging around.
Center Kur Kuath helped the Sooners steady after a slow start, even taking the lead for stretches of the first half. As the only true center in the rotation, he dealt with Azubuike as well as anybody did all day, forcing him to play on both ends of the floor.
Freshman De’Vion Harmon hit much needed shots for the Sooners off the bench as well.
Third on the team with 10 points, Harmon was efficient from deep when everyone but Doolittle seemed unable to sink three.
It seems no matter who starts or comes off the bench between Harmon and Alondes Williams, Oklahoma gets production out of the bench player. The Sooners will hope both can get going in the stretch ahead.
The Sooners won’t have much time to dwell on the loss, as they have another marquee matchup right around the corner.
On Tuesday night, Oklahoma will host the top ranked Baylor Bears. The Sooners gave the Bears a scare in their first contest of the season, with Austin Reaves missing a go-ahead three with seconds left on the clock.
Tip-off is scheduled for 8 p.m. at the Lloyd Noble Center. The game will be broadcast on ESPN2.