NORMAN — The big dog with brown fur, floppy ears and a little red hat was as welcome a sight as advertised. Top Daug spent Tuesday night at the Lloyd Noble Center throwing himself all over the court, climbing onto seats and engaging fans.
It was wonderful seeing the long, lost, beloved mascot synonymous with Oklahoma basketball’s best era again. It was wonderful seeing Billy Tubbs, the coach during that era, watching the fun with the rest of the well-above-average crowd. He smiled right along with everyone else.
So Tubbs’ spirit animal returned.
What OU needed to beat Kansas, though, was Tubbs’ shooters.
The Sooners fell 66-52 and squandered a terrific opportunity — the Jayhawks went without injured star point guard Devon Dotson — because they shot the ball like they were mad at the rims.
The stat sheet read like a damage report.
Kristian Doolittle and Brady Manek, tied as OU’s best marksmen coming in, went a combined 4-of-14 from the 3-point line and 9-of-34 overall.
Austin Reaves, an inaccurate 3-point man this season but a kid who came to OU from Wichita State with a shooter’s reputation, missed all five of his 3s and shot 1-of-9.
The Sooners made 19 baskets on the night at a percentage of 30.6. They went 8-of-29 from 3.
Remember when Tubbs’ teams made eight 3s before the popcorn was hot? Remember when they demoralized opponents with offense?
Tuesday night OU had one sequence in two hours that reminded you of that pyrotechnic time. It came midway through the first half, when Manek faked Kansas big man David McCormack off his feet and feathered in a 3, then Doolittle followed with a pull-up 3 in transition.
Jayhawks coach Bill Self called timeout, down 20-16, as Doolittle shook his head furiously and Manek and point guard De’Vion Harmon both raised three fingers. It was as well as the Sooners played and as loud as Lloyd Noble got.
OU faded offensively from there. So did the electricity. It takes big runs off big baskets to incite a crowd and the Sooners provided neither.
It’s a worry moving forward. OU has no low-post presence offensively. The Sooners aren’t overly athletic. Reaves’ creativity aside, they don’t set up many shots for themselves in one-on-one situations.
They share the ball well and aren’t necessarily sloppy, but their quickest routes to points are by knocking down jumpers.
It was certainly their best route to an upset Tuesday night, since Kansas does a worthy job staying in front of dribble drivers and protects the rim with 7-footer Udoka Azubuike.
The Sooners were going to struggle on the move offensively. They were going to struggle to contain Azubuike defensively; the big fella finished with 16 points on what seemed like 16 dunks.
The Sooners would have to win with a touch of Billy Ball. They didn’t necessarily need to run, but they absolutely had to gun. That is, with accuracy.
They gunned all right. They shot themselves right out of any chance to win.
Manek, Doolittle and Reaves could not replicate the magic of Tim McCalister, Dave Sieger and Terry Evans. When those dudes cocked their wrists, you just knew the ball was in. You knew the opponent was out of the game, and soon to be run out of the arena.
The players pranced, Top Daug danced and the fans had some kind of time.
The only remnant of that Tuesday night was the mascot.