Oklahoma basketball: Sooners aren't a finished product yet
COMMENTARY — On a day when OSU's upset of Kansas rocked the Big 12, we learned that OU is still improving. And college basketball is looking up in the state as well.
NORMAN — We came to Lloyd Noble Center on Saturday to lionize the Sooners' return to relevant, if not big-time, college basketball.
Good team, energized crowd, high hopes. Been awhile since OU could claim those traits.
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Then a few moments after tipoff, OSU completed its stunner at Phog Allen Fieldhouse, and we upgraded the celebration to include the whole danged state. Some of us remember when campus hoops were a big deal.
The Sooners haven't been to the NCAA Tournament since 2009, OSU not since 2010. But with OU's rocking victory at Baylor earlier in the week, then the Cowboys taking down the Jayhawks, happy days seemed here again.
Then another drought appeared. Against rawboned Kansas State, the Sooners went almost 11 minutes without scoring. Fourteen straight possessions, spanning the last 6½ minutes of the first half and the first 4½ minutes of the second half.
OU kept playing tough, if not well, and rallied to tie in the final minute before losing 52-50. And the Sooners reminded us that though the drought might be over, the climb back is not.
“We're still a work in progress,” said OU's Romero Osby.
True enough. The Sooners can outfox the likes of talented Baylor, but K-State hasn't lost its toughness just because psychotic coach Frank Martin has moved on.
The Wildcats bullied the Sooners. Fought over screens. Bumped the Sooners from their preferred spots. Got in OU faces and wouldn't get out.
“Tough game from start to finish,” said OU coach Lonnie Kruger, as he was known in a previous life as one of K-State's greatest players.
“Really difficult time on the offensive end. Dictated most of the night with their defense. Had trouble getting separation.”
Here are the sordid numbers. No Sooner had more assists than turnovers, and OU had only eight assists total. OU's starters shot 10-of-34 from the field, including 0-of-9 on 3-pointers.
And the Sooners' three freshman guards — Buddy Hield, Je'lon Hornbeak and Isaiah Cousins — combined to play 70 minutes, with six assists, seven turnovers and 10 points, on 3-of-11 shooting.
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