The Sooners had an emergency bus trip the other night, are fighting to stay NCAA Tournament bound, and Sooners Illustrated caught up with the team for those topics and more.
They took their show on the road Wednesday to Lubbock, Texas, for a more eventful one than they ever could have expected. Not on the court where they took care of business with an 86-71 victory over the Texas Tech Red Raiders, but what entailed afterward. Terrible weather conditions forced them to take a rare emergency bus ride home.
Head coach Lon Kruger quotable: "Through 30 years, really not that many [times it's happened], probably three or four, which isn't bad over a 30 year time. Kinda surprised yesterday because we went in there, they said no problem at all getting out. And then as the day went on, didn't look very good."_____________________________________________________________________
Star forward Romero Osby has been OU's anchor and leader all year, racking up team-highs of 14.2 points and 7.0 rebounds per game. But in doing so, he's also set up his teammates by drawing double teams that allow him to open up other players. That's a big reason why OU has sustained such success so far this season.
Kruger quotable: "Yeah, Ro[mero]'s totally unselfish. You know, he wants to make the play that's right for the team and we need him to be aggressive in there, but yet when teams start doubling him, he does a good job of finding open people on the perimeter."_____________________________________________________________________
OU hasn't made the NCAA Tournament since 2009 when Blake Griffin guided his troops to the Elite Eight. In fact, it hasn't finished .500 since that same season. But OU, at 17-8 has locked up its first winning season and now has a serious chance to make the tourney under Kruger in his second season since taking over for Jeff Capel. Barring any collapse down the stretch, OU should be a lock for its first postseason bid in four seasons.
Osby quotable: "Yeah, you know, you think about it in the back of your mind. But at the same time, you just want to take it day by day. You don't want to get too far ahead of yourself because anything can happen in college basketball. So, we're just trying to make sure we stay focused and try our best to be there at the end of the day."_____________________________________________________________________
Guard Isaiah Cousins struggled to four turnovers around just one assist, a rebound and steal while missing his only shot at Tech. Because of that, Kruger had to limit him to just 10 minutes, while playing reserve guard Sam Grooms 30 minutes.
Kruger quotable: "Yeah, Isaiah just had kind of a little glazed look last night, little deer in the headlights. And I told him, ‘You gotta put that behind you and learn from it and move on because you gotta have short memory sometimes.' And guys won a ball game and we can learn lessons from it and still move on. So, Isaiah will be fine. You know, we need him to just be a little bit more aggressive sometimes. He gotta a little bit trying to think about what he's trying to run instead of attacking and he'll be fine."_____________________________________________________________________
Baylor has lost two straight and five of its last seven dating back to a late January loss to the Sooners, signaling its desperation with respect to making the NCAA Tournament. But the Sooners channel that same desperation having not made the Big Dance since 2009. It's safe to say both teams will have an edge when these two tip off Saturday.
Osby quotable: "So, they're not gonna come in here and lay down. They're gonna be ready to come in here and play and compete with some urgency because they did lose their last two big games. So, we just gotta be able to make sure it's more important to us than it is to them. And we're on our home floor. That's always a great advantage, but at the same time we gotta take care of business."_____________________________________________________________________
Guard Pierre Jackson undoubtedly has been the catalyst for a Baylor offense that has averaged 75.2 points per game. He's netting a team-leading 18.9 points per game while dishing out 6.4 assists and pulling down 3.5 rebounds per contest. So, slowing him down is paramount, especially because limiting point guard production has been so difficult for OU's guards this year.
Kruger quotable: "It's not just the point guards. It's everyone. You know, our perimeter guys rotate around we switch everything anyhow. So, the three perimeter guys have to take on Jackson as a great challenge, no question about that. But again, when you play a player like [Marcus] Smart or [Josh] Gray or Jackson, it's always about not one of the guys that's on him, but it's gotta be a team effort, too. And we gotta be a little bit more aware when Jackson's got the ball."_____________________________________________________________________
The Sooners knocked off the Bears 74-71 the first time the two met earlier this season in Waco. But this time it's a home court battle in a place where OU is 9-2 this season, including victories over ranked foes Kansas and Oklahoma State. They'll look for more home cookin' this time around.
Kruger quotable: "I think the student section's been great, in Big 12 play especially. Our crowds have been great. You know, the players really appreciate that. The players are energized about that. They talk about that. They love running out of that tunnel and seeing an active student section, an active crowd. It makes a big difference."