NORMAN — Oklahoma's lead wasn't 22 at the 7:54 mark of the second half Saturday. But it was 21 with 9:37 left in the game.
The Austin debacle hung over Lloyd Noble Center like smoke after a pyrotechnic show. The Sooners' blown lead at Texas was not the kind of game easily forgotten. Certainly not in three days. Maybe not in three million.
Even after the blessed relief of another game, Austin reminders remained.
Iowa State players reminded Romero Osby a couple of times as he stood at the foul line down the stretch. Sooner players reminded themselves during timeout huddles.
Finish. We've been here before. Play out the game. Don't let down.
This time, the Sooners didn't. They routed Iowa State 86-69, at least partially wiping out the stench of the overtime loss at Texas on Wednesday night, when OU led 67-45 with less than eight minutes left.
“Really proud of our guys,” said OU coach Lon Kruger. “The ability to bounce back and play like they did today is a tribute to the leadership, especially Romero Osby.”
The stoic elder statesman, one of the few Sooners who didn't wilt down the stretch at Texas, collected his teammates after that game with a stern message. Regroup. Focus on the first 32 minutes in Austin. Learn from the last seven.
“It was a frustrating trip on the way back,” Osby said. “In our minds, we knew we had missed a great opportunity.”
But Osby pointed out this wasn't like football. No waiting a week. The Sooners got to play again quickly.
“Had a chance to play a good Iowa State team at home,” Osby said. “Good motivation, against a good team, and we needed the win.”
The Sooners took care of business early. A 12-2 lead barely five minutes into the game. A 14-point lead late in the first half. A 20-point lead barely three minutes into the second half.
Better yet, they took care of business late. And now we can absolutely declare the 19-9 Sooners in the NCAA Tournament, even if Kruger won't.
“We're fans,” Kruger said. “We're reading, we're talking, just like everyone else. But our approach can't change. Whether I say it or not, think it or not, the only healthy way to approach it is to think, we gotta have one more.”
Come to think of it, that's not a bad way to look at a big lead, either.
Kruger admitted his troops had long faces when they showed up for practice Thursday. But Friday's practice was much better. And Saturday, the Sooners played one of their most complete games of the season: 44.2 percent shooting, only five turnovers, only four offensive rebounds by Iowa State and an NCAA record-tying 34 foul shots without a miss.
“A tribute to the leadership of Ro and the other guys,” Kruger repeated. “Players maybe get over it more quickly than fans and coaches do.”
Iowa State had dominated OU 83-64 at Ames a month ago. This time, it was reversed. With no letdown.
Iowa State launched 31 3-pointers, plus four more deep 2-pointers, but the Cyclones' barrage of outside shots never caught fire until it was too late for even a Texas-like comeback. Stringtown's Tyrus McGee nailed three treys in the final 31/2 minutes, but by then, even the antsy crowd knew the Sooners couldn't lose this one.
“Something we didn't want to let happen to us again,” Osby said. “Coach has been on us, making every possession important.”
It's a hard way to learn a lesson, but consider it learned.
Berry Tramel: Berry can be reached at (405) 760-8080 or at firstname.lastname@example.org. He can be heard Monday through Friday from 4:40-5:20 p.m. on The Sports Animal radio network, including FM-98.1. You can also view his personality page at newsok.com/berrytramel.