Advertisement

Sooners comeback to beat Texas, secure 2nd straight Big 12 title

Feb. 28—Oklahoma's Lexy Keys said she just ended up in the right spot at the right time.

That spot, near the corner on the left side of the basket, was very close to the same spot where Keys hit a late 3-pointer that served as the dagger in an upset win at Texas. On Wednesday night, the circumstances that led Keys to that spot were completely different, but the outcome was the same.

Trailing by two points in the closing seconds to those same Longhorns, a scramble for the ball somehow ended up in the hands of a wide-open Keys, who hit the game-winner with just over four seconds remaining.

No. 3 Texas got one more opportunity, but the Sooners held on for a 71-70 win at home.

"A lot of emotions, I don't even know how to describe them. It was a lot of excitement," Keys said about the moments following the win.

The Sooners were celebrating a lot more than just another satisfying win over one of their toughest rivals. Both teams entered Wednesday's game with hopes of repeating as Big 12 regular season champions.

With the win, the Sooners secured the title outright, becoming the first repeat conference champions in school history since the 2006 and 2007 seasons.

They had gone through the lowest low of head coach Jennie Baranczyk's short tenure with the program entering conference play. Still, despite being picked to finish fifth in the preseason Big 12 poll, the Sooners improved on last year's conference win total at 15-2 with one game left to play.

"I'm really proud that we didn't quit in December," Baranczyk said, referring to the entire program, beyond the players and the coaches.

Wednesday's win almost mirrored the ups and downs the Sooners have been through this season.

Texas took the lead 1:24 into the game and didn't give it back for almost 38 minutes of game time. The Sooners struggled to get anything going offensively in the first half and an injury to leading scorer Skylar Vann seemed like a big blow to their chances of a comeback.

The Longhorns led by as many as 15 points, which was four points more than the Sooners' biggest comeback win of the season.

"They threw the first, second, third punch," Baranczyk said. "We were completely on our heels."

Vann returned to the game to start the third quarter and the Sooners used an 11-2 run late in the quarter to turn the tide.

They retook the lead with 3:20 remaining on a jump shot by Keys, but Texas answered right back and was one stop away from holding on for the win.

In the final 36 seconds the Sooners took four shots and missed all four before Keys' late 3-pointer. All four of those misses were followed up by offensive rebounds.

With 13 seconds remaining, they tried to find Vann inside, but the shot missed. Vann fought for the loose ball and eventually found Keys for the game-winning shot.

The senior from Deer Creek has often been the player the Sooners have turned to for a big shot late, but on Wednesday she helped create the winning play without scoring.

"She falls down, she misses a shot, but she keeps going," Baranczyk said about Vann. "She's led us more in that capacity than even hitting the big shot."

The Sooners trailed the Longhorns in almost ever major statistic. They were outshot (36% to 45%), were outscored in the paint (24-32), gave up more chances at the free throw line (28-16) and turned the ball over more (21 to 14).

Still, they won the rebounding battle (47-30) and had 21 offensive rebounds to the Longhorns' five, and that ended up being a key difference.

"Looking at the stat sheet, we shouldn't have won it," Baranczyk admitted after the game.

The Longhorns struggled with foul trouble late in the game and Aaliyah Moore and Amina Muhammad each fouled out of the game early in the fourth quarter.

The Sooners also switched up their defense, moving to a zone look that seemed to frustrate the Longhorns' scorers. Texas leading scorer Madison Booker had 19 points through the first three quarters of the game on 7-11 shooting.

Over the final 10 minutes, Booker went 1-9 from the field, but still had five makes from the free throw line.

The Longhorns went 2-13 from the field in the final quarter, while the Sooners were 6-19.

"I feel like it was less about that and what kind of defense we were in and I think it also got to where we were comfortable in that situation because we had been there before," Baranczyk said.

The Sooners are 7-3 this season in games decided by single digits. Their 15-point comeback win was the third-largest in Baranczyk's three seasons with the program.

Up Next

Oklahoma closes out the regular season on Saturday on the road against Kansas. As the regular season champions, the Sooners are locked in as the No. 1 seed in the Big 12 Championship, which begins next Thursday in Kansas City.

Tarik Masri is the sports editor for The Transcript covering OU athletics and area sports. You can reach him by emailing tarik@normantranscript.com