OU basketball: How the Sooners are keeping focused in rare lull in Big 12 schedule
Lon Kruger wishes his OU team didn’t go through a swoon to start the second half of Saturday’s eventual win at Iowa State.
He wishes the seventh-ranked Sooners would’ve kept the pedal to the floor and cruised their way to a win instead of finding themselves down after earlier being ahead by 21.
But heading into OU’s game Tuesday night at Kansas State, Kruger said that experience can serve as a bit of a wakeup call.
“It’s a reminder that just a slight change — whether it be our mental approach or our execution or whatever — you go after establishing a 21-point in the first half to losing that lead in the second half,” Kruger said. “You absolutely refer to that and try to learn from it and try to remind the guys how fragile a lead is in this league.”
Until this current two-game stretch played five of six games against ranked opponents and would’ve had a couple more in that had home games against Baylor and Texas not been postponed.
The Wildcats snapped their 13-game losing streak with a win at TCU on Saturday, further highlighting that results can’t be taken for granted after Kansas State had only won one conference game to that point, and that was against the Cyclones, who remain winless in the Big 12.
“That togetherness, that continued effort, was rewarded on Saturday night,” Kruger said. “We know they’ll come with a little additional hop in their step as a result of that tomorrow night.
“We have great respect for what they do, the movement, how tough they are mentally and defensively and all those things that Coach (Bruce) Weber’s teams are always about.”
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The Sooners hammered the Wildcats, 76-50, at home on Jan. 19.
OU hasn’t had success in Manhattan recently, even when they come into the game heavily favored.
The Wildcats have won eight consecutive games over the Sooners in Bramlage Coliseum, with OU’s last win coming in 2012 — Kruger’s first year with the Sooners.
Four of those losses have come to unranked Kansas State squads while the Sooners were ranked.
Twice, an unranked Wildcats team knocked off an OU squad in the top 10 — including the 2016 season when Kansas State upset the then-No. 1 Sooners, 80-69.
Several times this season, OU has jumped out to big leads before letting them dwindle away.
The Sooners have been able to get things back on track, though, including in wins over West Virginia, Alabama and Texas.
They did it again Saturday.
After the Cyclones made their push, OU held them to just 10 points over the final 11 minutes, holding Iowa State to 4-of-17 shooting. Three of those misses were blocked. The Sooners also outrebounded the Cyclones during the closing stretch.
The common thread in those games, Kruger said, has been OU’s defense.
Sooners guard De’Vion Harmon echoed Kruger’s sentiments.
“Us getting stops, stop after stop, boxing out, rebounding — it’s been better for us to get easier points,” Harmon said. “If we can get six to eight, maybe 10 transition points a game, that’s huge.
“Our defense definitely fuels our offense. … The object of the game is score so as long as we keep locking up on defense and rebounding the way we are, the way we have been, then that makes the offensive side that much more easier.”