Austin Reaves scored 23 points, Brady Manek added 19 and Oklahoma slipped by ninth-seeded Missouri to win 72-68 on Saturday night in the first round of the NCAA Tournament.
The eighth-seeded Sooners (16-10) are on to the second round for fourth time in the last six tournaments and will likely face No. 1 Gonzaga on Monday in the West Region. The unbeaten Zags faced 16-seeded Norfolk State later Saturday night.
The Sooners pulled out to an eight-point lead with 1:08 left behind Reaves’ free-throw shooting, but Dru Smith made two 3-pointers in the final minute to keep the pressure on and pull Missouri within 70-67 with 46.7 left.
Smith led the Tigers (16-10) with 20 points.
Reaves missed a jumper and Missouri got a possession to tie with 17 seconds to go, but the Tigers never managed to get off a 3-pointer. They fumbled the ball around to waste a few seconds and then Oklahoma’s Elijah Harkless fouled Drew Buggs on the hand as he dribbled, putting him at the line with 2.1 seconds left.
Buggs made the first and missed the second on purpose. Jalen Hill grabbed the rebound for the Sooners, was fouled and made one more free throw to wrap it up a quintessential 8-9 game between the former Big 12 rivals. The lead changed nine times and never reached double digits for either team.
Both teams limped into the NCAA Tournament. Oklahoma ended the season losing five of six in the tough Big 12. Missouri went 3-6 in its final nine in the Southeastern Conference.
Missouri: Coach Cuonzo Martin has taken Missouri to the tournament twice since taking over in 2017, but the proud program still has not won an NCAA game since 2010.
Oklahoma: The Sooners were without guard De’Vion Harmon, who tested positive for COVID-19 upon arrival in Indianapolis. The sophomore was the team’s second-leading scorer (12.3 points per game) and is expected to miss round two as well.
If it’s Sooners vs. Gonzaga, it will be the fourth meeting. The Zags lead 2-1.