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Sooners hold off Cougars to open Big 12 play 2-0

Jan. 3—Despite leading for all but 26 seconds of the game, nothing was coming easy for Oklahoma on Wednesday night.

The Sooners jumped out to an early 18-8 lead after the first quarter, but they shot 37% from the field and had five turnovers. In the second, they shot 56% from the field, including a pair of triples to extend the lead to 17 at the break.

But with just under five minutes remaining in the third quarter, the Sooners held just a seven-point lead against a BYU team that made it clear it wasn't going down without a fight.

On the next possession, Beatrice Culliton missed a short turnaround jumper and Skylar Vann crashed the offensive board. The putback extended the lead to nine and kickstarted a 12-4 run late into the quarter.

As the third quarter buzzer sounded, the Cougars, trailing by 15, once again showed they weren't done yet. Amari Whiting launched a shot from deep behind the 3-point line and it banked off the glass and in.

Oklahoma battled through another slow fourth quarter offensively to hold off the Cougars in a 75-63 win.

The Sooners are now 2-0 in conference play for the first time since the 2016-17 season. It was BYU's first home loss of the season and improved the Sooners to 3-0 in road games this year.

Oklahoma shot 39% from the floor and missed all 14 of its attempts from behind the arc in the second half. The Sooners entered the game 0-3 on the season when shooting below 40% from the field.

They were able to make up for it at the charity stripe, where they knocked down 11 of their 12 attempts (91%), to set a season-high in free throw percentage.

The Sooners dominated the glass with 55 rebounds and 18 offensive boards. The Cougars finished 43 total rebounds and 15 offensive boards.

Skylar Vann scored 13 of her game-high 19 points in the first half, knocking down nine of 18 attempts from the field. Payton Verhulst was one point shy of a double-double with nine points and 11 rebounds.

Lexy Keys added 12 points, but filled up the stat sheet with three steals, five rebounds and four assists.

Oklahoma returns home to face Cincinnati on Saturday at noon before beginning a tough stretch against Kansas State, Texas Tech, Houston and Texas.

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