OU men's basketball: Early season experience starting to show for Sooners
NORMAN — Back in November, the OU men's basketball team started the season with a slew of new names on the roster and a No. 8 ranking in the Big 12 preseason coaches’ poll.
Since then, Oklahoma has been tested in a variety of ways. Going a month without a home game. Playing several tight games. Suffering three nonconference losses.
But the lessons learned from those experiences are starting to show on the court.
“The guys have been in those hostile environments. They've been in those situations,” Oklahoma coach Lon Kruger said. “They've had success a couple of times. They've lost a couple of times. They know the difference. I think anytime you can, in nonconference play, gain from the experience of a tough schedule and being away from home, it does help us for Big 12 play.”
A week ago, only three Sooners had played a Big 12 game. Now the team is 2-0 in conference play, and a win on Saturday at Iowa State would give Oklahoma its first 3-0 start in Big 12 play since the 2012-13 season.
But winning in Ames, Iowa, isn’t easy.
The Sooners haven’t won in the Hilton Coliseum since the 2010-11 season.
“It starts with the fact that they've had good teams,” Kruger said. “Then you add a crowd that's very into it. They are very loyal and fantastic. They are a really energized Iowa State group. The Coliseum is a tough place to win.”
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That’s where the experience comes in.
Freshman guard De’Vion Harmon has adjusted well to his role coming off the bench, and sophomore guard Jamal Bieniemy has started to increase his scoring production. Redshirt junior forward Kur Kuath and junior guard Alondes Williams have started playing more productive minutes, too.
The confidence that comes with experience can be seen on the Sooners’ faces — or that’s at least what senior forward Kristian Doolittle thinks as he looks at his younger teammates.
“Not playing as wide-eyed as they once were,” Doolittle said. “The jitters are definitely gone. It was easy to see at the beginning of the season when you come in playing timid, but I feel like everyone has gotten their bearings.”
The Sooners also have momentum heading into this game. They’re coming off an impressive 72-62 win at Texas while the Cyclones are 7-7 and 0-2 in Big 12 play.
Oklahoma, though, knows it can't rely on momentum.
“Iowa State, they are a great team,” Harmon said. “It doesn’t matter what their record is. You are in the Big 12, and how they are playing this season doesn’t matter. You have to go into every game with the mindset that it’s going to be a dogfight.
“That’s what it’s going to be.”
Oklahoma vs. Iowa State
When: 7 p.m. Saturday
Where: Hilton Coliseum, Ames, Iowa
TV: ESPN2 (Cox 28/HD 721, Dish 143, DirecTV 209, U-verse 606/HD 1606)
Radio: KRXO-FM 107.7