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OU basketball: Take away a loss here and there — and Sooners are NIT bound

The fact is, OU failed to win enough games to solidify its postseason plans. Still, the Sooners have shown improvement under first-year coach Lon Kruger.
BY MIKE BALDWIN Published: March 4, 2012

Three hard-to-swallow losses, three games that should have been wins, are the difference between the Sooners heading to Kansas City for this week's conference tournament with an 18-12 overall record, 11-1 nonconference record and 7-11 conference record.

* The Sooners led Cincinnati, an NCAA Tournament team, by 12 points with six minutes left. And lost.

* OU never trailed the final 17 minutes of regulation in an overtime road loss at Texas A&M.

* Last Wednesday night in Austin, the Sooners owned the lead much of the game. They didn't trail until there was 6:16 left and were outscored 10-2 the final four minutes.

Close out two of those three games, and a 17-13 overall record probably is enough to play in the NIT.

“That's typical of most seasons,” said OU coach Lon Kruger. “If you get three or four that go your way, then all of a sudden it becomes a pretty good year. If you have three or four don't quite go your way, it ends up being less than what you want.”

The defining stat is a 1-9 road record.

Only once did the Sooners produce clutch plays late in a road game. OU's win at Kansas State under the backdrop of Kruger coaching against his alma mater for the first time in Manhattan, was the only road win of the season.

Cincinnati, A&M and Texas were what-could-have-been losses.

“You win those games, and it's a better season,” Kruger said. “You don't win those games, you end up where we're at, a .500 team. Competitiveness at key moments, actually for 40 minutes, is what we're after. We improved it a little bit as a team, but we have to improve it a lot more.”

Second-half struggles were the most consistent variable for an inconsistent team.

Two telling stats:

* The Sooners have led at halftime in three of its last four losses.

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