OKLAHOMA CITY- The Oklahoma Sooners escaped the Chesapeake Energy Arena by the skin of their teeth.
With just 44 seconds left in the game and a one point lead, Sooners forward Austin Reaves missed back to back shots.
Mississippi State collected the rebound off of Reaves’ second miss with just eight seconds left. With no timeouts remaining, the Bulldogs were forced to push the pace, and ultimately Robert Woodard II missed the go-ahead bucket as time expired.
Sooner Coach Lon Kruger was pleased with how his team defended in the final moments of the game, especially with how Jamal Bieniemy stopped the fast break and forced Mississippi State into a half court set.
“A lot of times games are lost just by a guy getting the ball and going downhill, and I thought Jamal’s stop of the ball there was critical,” he said.
After the game, Mississippi State Head Coach Ben Howland said the failure to score on the final possession ultimately falls on his shoulders.
“This loss is on me,’ Howland said. “I did a horrible job in the last 15 seconds of this game not setting something up.”
“That’s what will be haunting me the rest of the day and into tomorrow.”
Once up by 15 points, the Sooners found themselves in a back-and-forth game late, trading baskets with Mississippi State for the last 13 minutes of the game.
Key contributions from Brady Manek and Alondes Williams ultimately lifted the Sooners to the 63-62 victory.
Manek continued his hot streak, scoring 18 points on 6-of-11 shooting.
“Manek was the guy, along with Williams, who really hurt us,” Howland said. “Manek’s on a tear right now the last three games, playing with a lot of confidence and playing well.”
Williams was immense for Oklahoma down the stretch.
“Alondes was great,” Kruger said. “He’s just showing us now a little glimpse of what he can do going forward.”
“He was terrific today.”
Twice after the Bulldogs tied the game Williams led two scoring runs to push the Sooners back out in front.
After Mississippi State tied the game with 15 minutes remaining, Williams sparked a 7-0 run. Williams started the run off with a deep three, and he then stole the ball on the ensuing possession and posted a vicious dunk in transition.
Manek said Williams helped turn the tide for Oklahoma.
“I think that was a game changer for us,” he said. “That was a big play. It kind of brought the spirit back up with the team.”
Williams beamed after the game when recalling his dunk, noting it was one of the best plays for him since conference play started.
“It was amazing.”
Sooner center Kur Kuath slammed another dunk home on the next possession, leading to a Bulldog timeout to kill the run.
Williams again put the Sooners in front twice with 10 minutes remaining. Responding to back-to-back buckets by the Bulldogs, Williams scored on two straight possessions himself to give Oklahoma the lead.
“I felt more comfortable,” Williams said. “The energy from our team and my coaches got me going.”
Entering the contest, rebounding was a point of emphasis for Oklahoma.
Though they were unable to win the rebounding battle yet again, the Sooners were able to play much improved defense after conceding rebounds on the offensive end of the floor.
“It’s tough because they’ve got really big players and they’re really physical,” Manek said.
Allowing just nine second chance points off of 11 offensive rebounds, Oklahoma was able to change their fortunes from their last outing against the Baylor Bears.
The Sooners will now set their sights on a rematch with the Kansas State Wildcats. Oklahoma won the first meeting between the two teams 66-61 in their conference opener.
Tip-off from Manhattan, KS is scheduled for 7 p.m. on Jan. 29. The game will be broadcast on ESPN+.