Why the Sooners are ready for Austin Reaves' return from COVID protocol: 'He’s a big win guy'
LUBBOCK, Texas — With just more than a minute to go Monday night at Texas Tech, Lon Kruger once again put the ball in Elijah Harkless’ hands.
Harkless drove toward the basket before flicking the ball into Umoja Gibson’s hands in the corner.
Gibson drained a 3-pointer to pull the Sooners within two.
They eventually lost, 57-52 to No. 13 Texas Tech, snapping a five-game winning streak.
The ninth-ranked Sooners missed Austin Reaves significantly.
Harkless’ assist was one of only three OU had on the night, tied for their fewest in a game since Lon Kruger took over in 2011.
While Reaves’ scoring — he’s the Sooners’ leading scorer with 15.8 points per game — his development as a point guard has been among the biggest reasons why OU has thrived recently.
“Austin is a heck of a player,” Harkless said. “He gets guys involved. He sacrifices a lot of his kind of stats but he’s not a big stat guy. He’s a big win guy. That says a lot about him.
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“He sacrifices to get the ball up to other people when they have the opportunity and that ends up helping us with assists. Somebody like that being out, with the impact that he has every game, yeah, that’s pretty tough.”
Reaves is expected to return for Saturday’s 11 a.m. home game against Iowa State — the Sooners first against an unranked opponent since Jan. 19.
Alondes Williams, who like Reaves has missed the last two games due to COVID-19 protocol, will miss the game against the Cyclones but should be available for the Feb. 10 matchup against No. 2 Baylor.
The Sooners have been able to more than stay afloat without several key players recently due to COVID-19 protocols.
Brady Manek and Jalen Hill missed two games in early January with Manek struggling upon his return before surging over the last two games.
Now they’ve learned how to play without Reaves and Williams.
Gibson was a big reason the Sooners were able to stay close with the Red Raiders.
He had 14 points, seven rebounds and four steals. The latter two numbers were season highs.
In the first four road games of the season, Harkless scored a combined 10 points. He has a combined 26 in the last two.
De’Vion Harmon, Gibson and Kur Kuath are the only players to play in all 16 games so far for the Sooners.
“We’ve learned to stick together,” Harkless said.
“No matter who is out, we can all depend on one another and have each other’s back. Somebody goes out, it’s next man up and we’ll be ready. There’s no telling who can go out next due to COVID. There’s nothing you can do to prevent that. We try our best to stay isolated, but there is some stuff out of our control. We just control what we can control.”