FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. — The look on Oklahoma forward Romero Osby’s face said it all Tuesday night. It was the epitome of dejection after the Sooners’ 81-78 loss to Arkansas.
The loss was tough to take for many reasons: it ended OU’s three-game-winning streak, finished a string of three straight wins where it gutted out victory in the final minutes and was dished out by a team that’s become the Sooners’ fiercest non-conference rival.
However, the hardest part was Osby scored a season-high 22 points and was going to have to remember the shot that didn’t fall. His 18-footer with four seconds left could have given the Sooners the lead, and, likely, the win.
“I wanted it go in. I thought it was going in when it left my hand. Unfortunately it didn’t go in,” Osby said.
OU can fret over the shot that didn’t fall, but it was another game where all it did was hang around for most of the game and tried to close it out in the final minutes.
It trailed by 11 early in the second half and was on the verge of getting blown out due to Arkansas forward Marshawn Powell.
He dominated from start to finish, scoring 33 points and thwarting the Sooners’ attempt to get off a game-tying shot in the final second.
Powell, who wasn’t on the floor for OU’s 78-63 victory over Arkansas last year due to a knee injury, was no man of mystery to the Sooners. He’s a childhood friend of OU guard Steven Pledger and Osby squared off against him when he was at Mississippi State three years ago. They knew what he was capable of.
“I knew how he would play. I knew he was itching to get back on the court because he was out all last year,” Pledger said.
However, few envisioned Powell going 4-for-6 from 3-point range.
“When he also makes 3’s … he has the ability to drive the ball and you have to get up and guard him a little bit more,” OU coach Lon Kruger said. “You have to work and we didn’t do enough of it.”
Defense is what let OU down. It lost despite shooting 55.4 percent (31-for-56) from the field and making 16 of 25 shots in the second half.
Steven Pledger sank two 3-pointers in the final 40 seconds to turn a five-point deficit into a one-point lead with 20 seconds left.
The Sooners held Arkansas guard B.J. Young, who was averaging 21.3 points a game, in check. He finished with 10 points. However, Young reached double digits seconds after Steven Pledger drained a 3-pointer with 22 seconds left to give OU a 78-77 lead.
“I thought our guys had pretty good awareness when he had the ball. He has to work and then get help from defenders on either side,” Kruger said. “I thought our awareness of Young was pretty good, but he’s still a good player and tough to guard.”
Young finished with eight of the Razorbacks’ 21 assists. They shot 52.6 percent (30-for-57). Mardracus Young also added 10 points.
And it was Young that eventually sealed the game. He answered Pledger’s final 3-pointer with a driving layup to give Arkansas the lead for good.
Powell added two more free throws with 2.4 seconds left to lift the Razorbacks’ lead to three points.
OU set up a play to get Pledger a 3-point attempt in the middle of the floor, but Powell broke up the in-bound pass and it had to settle for an off-balance fling from Tyler Neal at the buzzer.
“We made a nice run there late. Got a couple stops defensively and Pledger hits the 3 to put us up one late. Then we give up a layup going the other way,” Kruger said. “We couldn’t quite finish on top.”
John ShinnFollow me @firstname.lastname@example.org