'Horns Hand Sooners Fifth Straight Setback

NORMAN, Okla. — The Sooners again put together a solid 20 minutes and carried a lead into halftime and again came out flat in the second half and let it slip away in a 69-58 defeat Tuesday night against their arch-rival Texas Longhorns.

"Again, it was a tough start to the second half," said head coach Lon Kruger. "Obviously, we had pretty good activity. It was great to see Tyler [Neal] knock down some shots there in the first half. Cam [Clark] got off to a nice start. A lot of guys were doing some pretty good things. Then, early in the second half it seemed like there was a possession or two that kind of deflated us a little bit. We just couldn't get back on top."

In fact, the Sooners' first three possessions in the second half went missed jumper, turnover, two missed jumpers sandwiched around an offensive rebound and another turnover.

Four possessions, four shots, no points.

Meanwhile, Texas came out of the locker room lights out, scoring on three of its first four possessions to turn a 33-28 halftime deficit into a two-point lead.

The Sooners briefly regained the lead at 37-35, but never really recovered after that.

Turnovers, 10 of them in the second half to be exact, were to blame in large part.

"It seems like typically it has been a result of being careless with the ball," Kruger said. "It is not only just turnovers, but it's turnovers that result in a layup going the other way. That is a big swing right away. Texas is a really good ball club and we can't afford to give those easy looks."

The Longhorns, indeed, translated those 10 turns into 19 second half points.

They scored just two points on three Sooner turnovers in the first half.

What's more?

OU led hustle statistics (rebounds, assists, blocks, steals) 35-26 at intermission.

Texas' spirited second-half effort turned that 58-54 in its favor by the end of the game.

So what is it with the Sooners?

A lack of focus? Limited depth? Fatigue?

"That's an excuse," said guard Sam Grooms, who finished with 10 assists but three turnovers. "Everybody wants to make it for us; I'm not going to accept it. It's not. Fatigue doesn't play a part in a lot of things for us. When you're on the court, even if you're a little bit tired, you want to win, so that should take over and knock the fatigue out of the way.

"You should be able to play through it, get extra possessions and actually come out and do something. Fatigue is not the [reason] and I don't think that's where we should go with that."

Whatever it is, they have had real issues in second halves.

The Kansas games, among others, come to mind.

One they led by a point; the other was a 3-point game.

Neither ended up close, both as losses, and this one was similar in terms of the second half struggles, although it was closer.

So, the Sooners have to figure something out with only five games remaining in the regular season.

Whether it's competing harder on one possession to get momentum for another or some other spark, OU has to find a way to put together minutes after halftime.

"I'm not really sure, to be honest," said forward Romero Osby. "I just think sometimes we let plays build on us, let things build on us, instead of just attacking and saying, ‘We'll get a stop this time down,' or ‘We'll get a stop this time down.' I think we kind of dwell on one turnover or one missed box out or they get a layup or something like that and it carries to two or three [possessions].

"We've just got to get tougher mentally with stuff like that because stuff like that is going to happen during games. I don't have an explanation for it. I just feel like we've got to fight and continue to get better."

The bright side is OU does have five more chances to do just that.

It'll get its next opportunity to do so when it tips at 12:47 p.m. Saturday in Ames, Iowa in a rematch against the Iowa State Cyclones.

But for now, the Sooners have to dwell on the fact that they let another potential victory slide.

Guard Steven Pledger led the way with 18 points in OU's losing effort, and Clark and Osby each added 13, but it just wasn't enough.

Texas guard J'Covan Brown led all scorers with 19 points, while guards Sheldon McClellan and Myck Kabongo each also netted 13.

The game featured three ties and eight lead chances, most of which were in the first half.

Follow me at twitter.com/joeyhelmer10 or facebook.com/joeyhelmer.

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