NORMAN — Nearly halfway through the college basketball season, it seems a bit of a stretch to point back to the preseason as the catalyst for a recent turnaround.
But still, Oklahoma sophomore guard Isaiah Cousins looks back at the summer trip to France and Belgium as the turning point in sparking his offensive improvement.
On that trip, Cousins was asked to take up more of the scoring load with Buddy Hield held out with an injury.
More recently, Cousins has had to serve as the team's backup point guard with the injury to Je'lon Hornbeak.
He's handled both roles well and used both Hield's absence in Europe and Hornbeak's absence recently to lift his game.
Going into Wednesday's home game against Kansas (6 p.m., ESPN2), Cousins has turned in his eight best scoring performances as a Sooner in his last 11 games.
He also showed improvement at the point when he was needed there.
“When we went to France, that was a new year for me,” Cousins said. “It's different. I have a different role on this year's team and that's to score.”
Hornbeak returned for Saturday's win at Texas, but Cousins is likely to still see time at the point over the next few weeks as Hornbeak works his way back into shape.
Cousins' first-half point guard play against the Longhorns, with starter Jordan Woodard out with foul trouble and the Sooners struggling from the field early, helped lift the Sooners to a halftime lead.
So although Sooners coach Lon Kruger hoped to not use Cousins at the point this season when he could help it, Cousins embraced the role.
“I just looked at it as a good opportunity for me to mature as a player,” Cousins said.
That's also how he's looked at his ejection late in the win over the Longhorns for a second technical foul.
“That was hard because it could've cost us the game,” Cousins said. “That's the tough part.”
Perhaps the player who was most impressed with Cousins' play was Hornbeak.
“Once they told him I would pretty much be out for a little while, he knew what he had to do and he did it and I thought he did a heck of a job doing it,” Hornbeak said. “Now, he's just playing comfortably, freely.
“It's just confidence. He knows his spots very well, he knows when to shoot and when to pass it. He's really worked on his shots and getting to those spots that he's seen on film and just pulling up.”