Sooners prepared for ‘40 minutes of Hell'

NORMAN, Okla. — When the Sooners head to Fayetteville, Ark., tomorrow night at 6 to take on Mike Anderson's Arkansas Razorbacks, it's no secret the challenge they'll be in for

The Razorbacks will bring it, and bring it for 40 minutes.

Forty minutes of Hell, as it's been called.

First at UAB. Then Missouri. Now Arkansas.

They'll full court press, trap, speed the game up at both ends of the floor and try to turn it into an all out track meet on 94 feet of hardwood.

The team feels like they're prepared for it, though.

"I mean we've been going through it a lot these past games," said freshman guard Je'lon Hornbeak. "I mean Northwestern State kinda threw a little bit at us. Oral Roberts tried that as well, UTA of course. So, from UTA to now I think we're doing a pretty good job handling it."

But this is to a whole new level.

It won't be a possession on and possession off, or even two possessions on and one off.

It's every possession on.

"I think, I mean the coaching staff has always done a great job of preparing us for like anything we can encounter, whether it's a press, whether it's a zone," said junior forward Amath M'Baye. "Every time he gives us a game plan, if you follow it, it works. So, I think he gave us the tools. All we gotta do now is just go out there and do the work."

Undoubtedly, handling their up-tempo, helter skelter, frantic pace has been a focus of emphasis the last few days.

Throughout the season it has, too. Why?

"That's kinda what we try to do, so we're kinda used to doing that every day in practice, going against that flying around, people just out of position on defense and just seeming like it's chaos," said senior forward Romero Osby. "So, I think we [have] kinda gotten used to that, but at the same time it is on the road against a good SEC team that's quick, fast.

"And Bud Walton Arena is always loud, so it's gonna be different. It's gonna be a good test for us early on in the season."

If they're able to handle it and get out of there with a victory, the Sooners will have rattled off their fourth win in a row and seventh in eight tries to start the season in what has been somewhat of a promising start to the 2012-13 season.

If not? Well, it's back to the drawing board for another battle with an SEC opponent, Texas A&M, in the All-College Classic at 1 p.m. December 15 at Chesapeake Energy Arena.

A potential marquee victory

When the NCAA Tournament selection committee looks back in March and compares teams' resumes, this game could be an important one.

While the Hogs have lost three in a row (Arizona State, Wisconsin, Syracuse) and are somewhat reeling early in the season, this is a non-conference contest against a major conference team, one of only two featured on OU's out-of-league slate.

Because of that, it could speak volumes about where this team is comparatively to others around the country.

"Definitely," Osby said. "You know, Syracuse just went in there and won, a good team. And when a team plays back-to-back teams, you know, BCS teams like us, the first thing they do and is try to compare the two. You know, early in the season Washburn played Kansas State the first game and the next game they played us, and we wanted to make sure that they went back saying, ‘Hey, Oklahoma was a better defensive team. They were better.' You know what I mean?

"So, I think that can help us in March because Syracuse just went in there and got a win and we follow up, go in there and do the same thing, it shows that we're on that level and trying to get on that national radar."

M'Baye concurred.

"Oh definitely," the 6-foot-9, 208-pound forward said. "Arkansas is a very good team. They have a very good coach, and it's on the road as well. And any time you get this kind of win on your resume, it's a plus when you're trying to make a run for the NCAA Tournament.

Team carries confidence into road battle:

Despite squeaking out a number of close games early on in the season, including the last two over ORU and Northwestern State by a combined five points, OU is riding a bit of a high into their inter-conference showdown.

"Just the fact that we are able to just get that little one at Oral Roberts and just be able to go on the road to get a win I think is going to give us confidence to go into this game," M'Baye said.

So, why have the Sooners been able to pull some of these games out?

After all, they trailed ORU by 10 with just more than eight minutes left and trailed Northwestern State the other night by six with a few to play.

UTEP, UT-Arlington and West Virginia all they played them tough as well, but they snuck by those as well.

"I think it's a little mix of everything, just like a mix of the freshmen joining in and doing a good job, the seniors stepping up," M'Baye said. "Everybody else is doing their job. The coaching staff is just giving us the right game plan for this kind of situation."

Osby has another explanation.

"Last year I think we sometimes let it creep into our mind that we had a 50-50 chance of winning instead of having a 100 percent chance of winning in our mind," Osby said. "And I think this year that's a lot different. I think every game we go into we expect to win."

Of course, they'll take that same mindset into their eighth regular season game as the previous seven.

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