Fouss Traore needed a little more help in Norman.
Traore scored 21 points with another dominating performance inside the paint, but his teammates struggled to make midrange jumpers and some gimmies at the rim.
Oklahoma took advantage in an 82-66 win Tuesday night.
The inside-the-paint game BYU mastered against West Virginia in Morgantown was primarily Fouss, but even the big man from Mali, Africa, had moments when his point-blank shots would not go down.
BYU had plenty of chances. In fact the Cougars had 22 what one could consider layups and made just nine.
Traore, who has scored 16, 24 and 21 points in his past three games, converted 9 of 17 from the field.
Once again he was a tough load to handle for Oklahoma, but BYU head coach Mark Pope had to watch his minutes due to foul trouble on backup center Atiki Ally Atiki and the absence of top-of-the key passing artist Aly Khalifa, who stayed home for both games of this road trip with a flu-like illness.
Oklahoma hit BYU with a defensive game plan it had not shown all season, Pope told a BYU radio network audience on his postgame show.
That included being very physical fighting through screens and pressuring BYU’s 3-point shooters.
BYU primarily tried to ride Traore. Spencer Johnson, Dallin Hall and Richie Saunders tried to attack with jump shots inside the key and at the rim, but were regularly off target.
On the other end, Oklahoma used defensive breakdowns to knock down nine treys and finish the game with a steady traffic flow at the free-throw line.
It was a bad scenario for Pope’s guys.
“I liked what we were able to do against what they came with because we got plenty of looks,” said Pope. “It was so enticing because they were so open and we were so close and did just didn’t capitalize on it. We didn’t play very well and that is uncharacteristic for us.”
“They (Oklahoma) were really committed to making it a two-man game and there were moments where I thought Fouss and Dallin and Spencer had a really nice rhythm, but we didn’t finish enough to carry the day.”
You cannot do that on the road in the Big 12.
The Cougars did.
There is little question the absence of Khalifa hurt BYU’s chances for a road sweep. His unique ability to facilitate from the top of the key is something Traore has not mastered. The change-up with Khalifa in the lineup poses a lot of problems for defenses.
This was a tough one for the Cougars because Oklahoma had lost three of its last four games and the arena was anything but intimidating.
When Hall made three consecutive 3-point buckets in the first half, it looked like BYU’s inside-out-game would begin to wear on the Sooners, but then BYU went 1 for 10 from the field in the closing 3:35 minutes of the first half and a 26-20 BYU lead ended up a halftime tie at 34.
Noah Waterman’s 3-pointer to start the second half and Hall’s bucket put the Cougars up 39-34, but BYU did not make another from distance for the next 15 minutes.
Coinciding with that slump from beyond the arc, the Cougars went on a skid defensively.
Pope believed it was tied to the missed layups.
BYU could not stop Milos Uzan (16 points) and struggled with Rivaldo Soares (12 points). When the Cougars put Javian McCollum at the line in the final three minutes, he was money and finished 8 of 8 from the stripe to solidify his 20-point night.
Waterman, who has been fighting illness during the road trip and was scoreless at West Virginia, was 1 for 5.
Jaxson Robinson, who was playing in his home state and nearby his hometown of Ada, struggled, shooting 2 for 7. Saunders, perhaps BYU’s most effective player this season, went 1 for 8.
A lot of that is life on the road and what happens at the end of a four-day road trip.
It was one of those what-could-have-been nights, but reality.
BYU now retools to host Kansas State on Saturday night.
Somebody create a potion for Khalifa. Give some to Waterman, too.