They worked the ball around and found every crack in the wall of two of the top defensive teams in the Big 12 Conference.
The way his team played against Kansas State on Saturday left a much different feeling.
The Sooners never had any rhythm, settled for bad shots and put together too much one-on-one offense, which left even more to be desired.
“It seemed like we didn’t have that rhythm and flow that we normally do,” Kruger said after the 66-63 upset in overtime. “We weren’t moving the ball crisply. Kansas State certainly had something to do with that.”
Kansas State exposed all of Oklahoma’s weaknesses.
The Wildcats denied forward TaShawn Thomas the ball, crashing down on the big man with up to four defenders when he had his back to the basket.
They kept Jordan Woodard and Isaiah Cousins out of the paint and forced Oklahoma’s back-court duo to settle for jump shots. Woodard and Cousins combined for just four points on a 2-for-15 shooting outing. They attempted just one free throw.
Kansas State couldn’t stop Buddy Hield, who scored a career-high 31 points, but Oklahoma won’t win many Big 12 games relying on just Hield.
“I feel like we came out ready,” Hield said. “The guys wanted it. Kansas State just came out and popped us. They had guys stepped up, guys who stepped up and just made shots. Credit to them. We just have to go back, and hopefully, we get them back up in Manhattan.”
Kansas State entered Saturday’s game near the bottom half of the league in every major defensive category. The Wildcats were the worst field goal percentage defense in the Big 12.
Still, they held Oklahoma to 40 percent shooting – near its average. No. 16 Oklahoma (11-4, 2-1 Big 12) shot 33 percent in the first half.
Oklahoma’s defense is far removed from the one last year that scored more than 90 points seven times and finished with an average of 82 points per game, almost 10 points more than this season.
“It’s different from a year ago,” Kruger said. “Since the Bahamas, we’ve actually moved the ball pretty well offensively. Since we didn’t get the results (Saturday), it’ll be even more glaring for sure. . . . We have to improve. We have to do better in improving things.”
Finding scoring of its bench would be a good start.
Frank Booker, who has been limited by a back injury, has scored just one basket in a month, and outside of combo guard Dinjiyl Walker, who is averaging just four points over the last nine games, there isn’t much offensive punch coming off the bench.
Freshman forward Khadeem Lattin has just two points in Big 12 play and 37 minutes. He has attempted just five shots.
“We need to keep stretching our bench a little more and getting more from them,” said Kruger, who played four of his starters 40 minutes on Saturday. “We have to keep working on that.”
Before heading to Morgantown, WV to face the 14th-ranked West Virginia Mountaineers, who lost by four points to Iowa State, Oklahoma will have plenty to work on to prove its ceiling is actually high as some believed.