OU basketball: 3 takeaways from Sooners' win over Houston Baptist
NORMAN — OU’s men’s basketball team isn’t going to remember Saturday’s game very fondly.
The Sooners slogged their way through an 84-65 victory over Houston Baptist inside Lloyd Noble Center to close out their early season non-conference schedule.
OU (7-1) now awaits No. 14-ranked Texas Tech on Tuesday.
Here are three takeaways from the win over Houston Baptist:
Iwuakor provides spark
OU sophomore forward Victor Iwuakor was the needed spark.
With the Sooners up just six with more than 10 minutes remaining, Iwuakor went to work inside the paint.
He had three straight dunks. He blocked a shot nearly into the stands. He hit a short jumper.
And OU finally had control with a 16-point lead with 6:31 remaining as part of a 14-0 run.
“It’s just my game,” Iwuakor said. “Coach always expects me to bring energy whenever I’m on the court, so I try to do that every time.”
The Sooners’ defense came alive at the same time, holding Houston Baptist scoreless for nearly 6 minutes.
For good measure, Iwuakor delivered an alley-oop dunk 30 seconds later before fouling out, the result of his energy more than anything.
“Victor’s activity is always going to give us a lift,” OU coach Lon Kruger said. “His energy, aggressiveness is great. I like him defensively and what he does there, in terms of activity, the plays he made on the offensive end.
“Really good to see that out of Victor.”
It was Iwuakor’s best game of the season, which got off to a late start after he missed the first three games.
He scored a season-high 12 points on 6 of 8 shooting and finished with three rebounds.
But one play certainly stood out. His block.
“I’ve always loved defense, so I’ll say the block,” Iwuakor said. “I should have grabbed it.”
Feel the rhythm?
OU’s offensive rhythm was mostly nonexistent.
Kruger had a clear plan entering the game: Play his starters sparingly and get other guys more time on the floor.
But Houston Baptist — a team that entered 1-6 and had hardly been competitive against power conference schools — hanging around was not in the plan.
“It didn’t seem like we moved the ball very well,” Kruger said. “It seemed like the ball hung up more than we like. We didn’t have much flow.”
OU ultimately shot 49.3% overall, but made only 5 of 23 from 3-point range. The Sooners only committed 10 turnovers, too.
Kruger stuck with his gameplan, though.
With Texas Tech looming, Kruger isn’t too concerned. OU’s offense had not struggled moving the ball until Saturday.
“We need to get back to playing like we know we need to play to be effective,” Kruger said.
Give credit to Houston Baptist.
It’s lone win this season is against Champion Christian, a National Christian College Athletic Association team.
The Huskies struggled with TCU, Arizona State, SMU, Rice and North Texas before coming to Norman. Playing the Sooners ultimately looked like a lop-sided loss again, but Houston Baptist made it interesting.
And it frustrated the Sooners.
“We just could tell we weren’t ourselves,” Iwuakor said. “We talked about it in the locker room and we just had to bring the energy.”
The Huskies made 10 3-pointers and even held a one-point lead multiple times, including in the second half, before running out of steam.
Freshman Za-Ontay Boothman and junior Pedro Castro were problems early offensively. Each finished with 13 points. Darius Lee also scored 15.
That pushed the Sooners, who ultimately had four players reach double figures.
“I thought Houston Baptist played great,” Kruger said. “