Oklahoma guard Je'lon Hornbeak is going to play so hard these last six games, he might pass out.
Maybe it sounds like a bit of an exaggeration from the freshman, but Hornbeak is serious about how hard he expects to play throughout the easiest part of Oklahoma's schedule. As of Tuesday, the Sooners have the easiest remaining schedule in the Big 12 when looking at their upcoming opponents' winning percentage in conference play. Their opponents for the remaining six games — Texas Tech, Baylor, Texas, Iowa State, West Virginia and TCU — carry a combined 26-47 (. 356) record in league play.
Only two of those teams — Baylor and Iowa State — carry a league record better than .500, and the Sooners face both of them at home. OU has beaten five of the six, with Iowa State the exception. That doesn't matter to Hornbeak and his teammates though.
“We take it one game at a time, whether we're playing against Indiana or Emporia State,” Hornbeak said. “It doesn't matter who we're playing.”
Who they win against won't matter, but who they lose to could really hurt the Sooners' chances at an NCAA Tournament berth. Here are six things the Sooners said they need to go 6-0 in their last six regular-season games, beginning Wednesday night at Texas Tech.
EXPECT TO WIN
The first thing out of Oklahoma coach Lon Kruger's mouth when asked what is needed to go 6-0 was to “win the first one.” Senior forward Romero Osby agreed that the mantra of “taking it one game at a time” is important, but so are expectations.
“We can't focus on the fact that if we do lose, we're down in the dumps,” Osby said. “We can't even expect to lose. We have to expect to win. It's still tough games. It's still Big 12 games.”
DEFEND HOME COURT
This is the second mantra that the Sooners have tried to stay true to all season. The Sooners are 9-2 in Norman this year. Their only conference loss at Lloyd Noble Center was to then-No. 18 Kansas State. The Sooners already defeated Baylor at home, so Hornbeak said they are aware of the revenge factor.
“Just like we lost to Iowa State the first time and we're waiting to get a crack at them,” Hornbeak said. “The teams that we beat early, they're waiting to get a crack at us.”
Kruger has said that his teams need to be physical and energetic. This six-game stretch will rely heavily on a team's energy, especially since it's the end of the season.
“We have to have that energy, we have to fight down the stretch and we have to be able to make plays and enjoy doing it,” Osby said. “It's tough in February because everybody's trying to compete in that spot to get into the tournament, so it's going to be a nail-biter, but at the same time, we just have to go out and take care of business like we're supposed to.”
DON'T REPEAT LAST YEAR
Last season, Oklahoma went to Lubbock and lost to the Red Raiders. It was the only league victory for Texas Tech.
“It was kind of like a blur,” Osby said. “Didn't seem like we had any energy. We were lethargic. Before you know it, they were up 16, 17 points. That's what happens in the Big 12, you're on the road and you're not ready to play and execute and you take the other team lightly, that can happen to you.”
That's what happened this year at Iowa State. Not that the Sooners took the Cyclones lightly, Osby said. More that they didn't come out with good energy. But Osby doesn't see that happening again.
MAKE WINNING PLAYS
This was the difference between a win and a loss at Oklahoma State.
“We just didn't make certain game-changing plays,” Hornbeak said. “We made the safe play or the good play, and sometimes we've got to make the winning play.”
At the end of one game and at the start of the next, this is what Kruger wants to see from his team.
“We've just got to keep making progress,” Kruger said.
Oklahoma at Texas Tech
*When: 6 p.m. Wednesday
*Where: United Spirit Arena, Lubbock, Texas
*TV: ESPNU (Cox 253/HD 718, Dish 141, DirecTV 208, U-Verse 605/HD 1605)
*Radio: KOKC 1520 AM
Three things to know
* Texas Tech has won the last three meetings in Lubbock, including their only Big 12 victory last season.
*On Jan. 16, OU beat Tech 81-63. The 81 points are the most scored by OU in conference play this year.
*Texas Tech is allowing opponents to shoot .468 from the field (ranked last in the league) while shooting .380 from the field (ranked ninth).