Cam Clark thought Oklahoma “settled” at times last year.
“Our whole mentality has changed,” the senior forward said. “We're not just trying to settle for winning home games. We're trying to win every game this season.”
Entering Saturday's game (3 p.m., KOCB-34) at Iowa State, the Sooners are 3-1 away from home in Big 12 play.
This year's Sooners have been much better on the road than they have in recent seasons.
The three road wins in conference play matches their total from last season. Oklahoma hasn't won more than three road games in Big 12 play since the 2009 team that made the Elite Eight went 6-2 on the road.
Going into this season, the Sooners were 5-29 in conference road games in the previous four seasons.
A lot of this season's success can be traced to the final few minutes of ballgames, Sooners coach Lon Kruger said.
“We've had pretty good focus the last four or five minutes when those games are determined,” Kruger said. “All our games have been close so we know they're all going to be close on the road. We've had good offensive possessions and made a couple shots at the right time.”
Those close games — both at home on the road — have helped the Sooners develop an edge.
“I think teams develop that mentality — that attitude about getting stops, that attitude about executing,” Kruger said. “This team's growing a lot in that way.”
They beat Texas in Austin by three in their Big 12 opener. They edged the then-No. 9 Cyclones by five in Norman in early January. They had to hold off then-No. 12 Baylor by two on Jan. 18 in Waco.
“When you're in those games all the time, you really appreciate what a good defensive possession is or a good offensive possession,” sophomore guard Je'lon Hornbeak said. “We're playing better defense and figuring out our guys' hot spots toward the end of the game when the game's on the line.”
Hornbeak has vivid memories of last year's game at Hilton Coliseum. The Sooners lost that game 83-64.
“They kicked our butts there last year,” Hornbeak said. “At Iowa State is always a tough place to play. I want to beat them there for the guys that were here last year.”
Clark said Ames stands with Kansas as the toughest places to play in the Big 12.
“We've got to keep it calm and keep our composure and just execute,” Clark said.
Hornbeak added Oklahoma State in the group of the toughest places to go on the road and win in the Big 12.
“Any time your ears are popping, you know it's a tough place,” Hornbeak said. “That's what it's going to be like in Ames.”