NORMAN, Okla. — Isaiah Cousins has made it a recent focus to play aggressive on both ends of the basketball court and try to be more consistent. The result has been a boon for the Sooners.
Cousins scored a career-high 24 points and Oklahoma gained ground in the race for second place in the Big 12 with a 77-65 win over No. 24 Texas on Saturday.
Buddy Hield hit four 3-pointers and scored 17 points for Oklahoma (21-8, 10-6), which entered the game in a four-way battle with Texas (21-8, 10-6), Kansas State and Iowa State behind Kansas.
After Saturday, all four teams will have two games remaining.
Oklahoma committed a season-low seven turnovers while completing a regular-season sweep of the Longhorns. The Sooners have won three of the last four games in the series after Texas had won 12 of the previous 15.
“Isaiah did an outstanding job throughout and Buddy (hit) big shots in the second half and Ryan (Spangler) rebounded like crazy,” Oklahoma coach Lon Kruger said. “I’m happy for the guys. It’s tough to beat Texas any time and I’m proud of them.”
Cameron Ridley had his eighth double-double of the season with 19 points and 14 rebounds for Texas, which has lost three of its last four games after winning nine of its previous 10, all in league play.
Texas coach Rick Barnes pointed to one statistic - the Longhorns’ 16 turnovers, which led to 23 Oklahoma points. Every Texas guard committed at least one turnover, something he said “irritated” him.
“I don’t mind turnovers, if we’re putting the ball inside,” he said. “It was the way we turned the ball over. I think they stole two balls, three balls (when we were) passing, reversing the ball, when we should have been driving the ball there. I thought our guards were too tentative.”
Cousins entered the game with a 10.4-point scoring average and has played a key role during a stretch in which Oklahoma has won three of four games. He scored 17 points - then the third-best offensive outing of his career - last Saturday in a win over Kansas State before going 7-of-11 from the field and adding three steals against the Longhorns.
Cousins’ extra practice “is really showing up during the games,” he said, adding that he was “in the right place at the right time” on defense.
Oklahoma City Thunder star Kevin Durant, a proud former Texas standout, watched from courtside seats and popped into the Longhorns’ locker room at halftime with Texas down 32-25, but it was Oklahoma - led by Cousins and Hield - that came out the aggressor in the second half.
After a 3-pointer by Texas’ Jonathan Holmes, Cousins - who entered the game averaging 10.4 points per game - answered with a three-point play, then a dunk. Hield ended a 13-3 Oklahoma run with a pair of 3-pointers to push the Sooners’ lead to 45-31 with 14:55 left. He flashed Durant a look after one of those shots.
“It was in the moment,” Hield said, smiling. “I was just trying to make a play for my teammates and I happened to turn my head right. There was nothing I could do.”
Texas came no closer than 11 points the rest of the way. The Longhorns pulled to 61-50 with 7:55 left after a layup by Martez Walker. Oklahoma then went on a 7-2 spurt to again push out its lead.
A late 6-0 run by Texas got the Longhorns within 72-61 with 1:49 left, but Cousins and Hield combined to go 5 of 6 from the free throw line after that to seal the win for Oklahoma.
Oklahoma, which entered the game leading the Big 12 in made 3-pointers per game in conference play at 8.7, went 10 of 25 from behind the arc. The Sooners’ strong outside shooting meant they didn’t need to go inside as much against a Texas team that’s 12th in NCAA Division I in blocked shots per game. The Longhorns blocked only three Oklahoma shots, more than three below their average.
Meanwhile, Oklahoma, led by Hield, limited Texas’ Jevan Felix - who had a career-high seven 3-pointers in the Longhorns’ win over Baylor on Wednesday - to two points and 0-of-4 3-point shooting. Texas went 3-of-19 from 3-point range.
“The 3-ball didn’t beat us,” Barnes said. “What beat us was they got extra possessions. . When you have a team that can shoot threes like they do, you can’t give them all the other things we were giving them.”