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OU basketball taking steps toward respectability, relevance

JENNI CARLSON COMMENTARY — With the exception of a 10-12 minute stretch in the second half, the University of Oklahoma basketball team stood toe-to-toe with Kansas. Sure, Kansas pulled away for a 72-61 victory, but the Sooners showed promise.
by Jenni Carlson Published: January 7, 2012

It's fun to watch, too.

A crowd of 9,000-plus roared its approval time and again in the first half. Even though there were a good number of blue-clad Kansas fans, the crimson-clad OU fans were the ones enjoying themselves.

But then, those unenergetic, unenthusiastic Sooners returned. They stood around. They turned over the ball. They allowed easy baskets.

And the Jayhawks opened the second half with a 29-6 run.

“The 10 minutes ... to start the second half was probably the best run we've had all year,” Jayhawk coach Bill Self said. “Other than that, it was just back and forth. We didn't outplay them at all, other than that 10 minutes.”

That is huge step in Norman, where it has been a struggle these past few seasons for the Sooners to hang with quality teams for any length of time.

But let's not kid ourselves — these games against Missouri and Kansas also show that OU still has a long ways to go. There might have been a false sense of progress after the Sooners posted a 10-2 record during nonconference play, but now, we see that they aren't yet close to where they want to be.

That reality isn't lost on the man charged with leading them on this journey.

“Progress is going to be the theme of what we're trying to do,” Kruger said. “We've got to get more physical. We've got to get tougher. We've got to be more involved, more engaged every possession for 40 minutes.”

The Sooners didn't get to the 40-minute mark Saturday, but they were closer than they were Tuesday.

That's progress.

But the road ahead of the Sooners is extremely long. Even though they made some strides against the Jayhawks, there are many more steps that still have to be taken.

by Jenni Carlson
Jenni Carlson, a sports columnist at The Oklahoman since 1999, came by her love of sports honestly. She grew up in a sports-loving family in Kansas. Her dad coached baseball and did color commentary on the radio for the high school football...
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