NORMAN — Saturday was different for the Oklahoma basketball team.
It was a change. It was euphoric. It was pent-up emotion released.
It was finally a win over Kansas, 72-66.
When the Sooners jumped around the Lloyd Noble Center court celebrating a victory over a team they hadn't beaten since 2005, when OU fans began to rush the court, when seniors Steven Pledger and Andrew Fitzgerald embraced and began to cry, it was different for so many reasons.
“We finally beat Kansas,” Pledger and Fitzgerald said to each other. “Finally.”
After three-and-a-half seasons and five missed opportunities for the two seniors, the result changed in their last regular-season chance at the No. 5 Jayhawks. The pair combined for 21 points, with 15 coming from Pledger.
Two weeks ago, the Sooners got pushed around in the post by Kansas big man Jeff Withey in a 13-point loss to the Jayhawks.
Saturday night, the attention went to Oklahoma senior Romero Osby, who went 6-of-8 from the floor and led the team with 17 points, and junior Je'lon Hornbeak, who went 4 for 6 at the free-throw line in the final minute and finished with seven points.
This was a different team than what the Jayhawks saw in Lawrence.
Since that 13-point loss to Kansas two weeks ago, the Sooners (15-7, 6-4) have seemed to put their starting point guards on a roulette wheel, with Oklahoma coach Lon Kruger finding a different guard being more aggressive at different points in games.
Then instead of being pushed around and losing confidence, Osby made the 7-foot Withey's height shrink some. He shot over him, around him, waited for him to fall after a jump before he released the ball.
“I knew he was going to do that,” Withey said of Osby. “He did that when he was in the Fieldhouse. He's a great player. They hit shots today. That was frustrating, but what can you do? They made shots and that's about it.”
Withey finished with 14 points, six rebounds and one block. Ben McLemore led the Jayhawks with 15 points.
Since that last game against Kansas, Oklahoma had the high of beating Baylor on the road and the low of a 19-point loss to Iowa State in Ames, Iowa. A plus and a minus for the NCAA Tournament resume.
Osby has been their rock, pushing the team in practice to get better, to stay energized in hopes of a new result to help their case for March.
The Sooners changed as a team.
“Coach told me, ‘Hey, you're not going to make every shot. Don't worry about it, just stay in the gym,'” Osby said. “That's what I did.”
The Jayhawks (19-4, 7-3 Big 12) could see the difference.
“It's a good team,” Kansas forward Elijah Johnson said. “Osby gave them so much. ... They're energetic. They like to play basketball. That's one thing I can say about them as a group. They like to play basketball.”
Saturday night showed just another change in a season of differences from the Sooners, who matched their win total from last season (15) with their victory Saturday night.
As the final seconds ticked off the clock, Pledger hoped to share his first victory over the Jayhawks with the fans. He hoped for a court rush.
“I see that on TV all the time,” Pledger said. “I always wished we could get something like that to happen. I didn't think they were gonna let them do that. But I turned around and everyone was rushing to me. So I started jumping, too.”