Win by one or 10 points, and it’s still a win.
Lose by one or 21, and the Sooners are walking out of the arena feeling bad.
“You’d like to play well for sure, but at this point in time, there aren’t really any moral victories in losses,” Oklahoma coach Lon Kruger said.
With the confidence of its star player Buddy Hield riding as high as ever and Oklahoma looking again like the team that opened conference play with back-to-back victories over ranked teams, the Sooners have a chance to earn more than just a moral victory.
Going in to Lawrence, KS and knocking off the 10-time Big 12 champs would be as big a statement victory as possible.
But beating the Jayhawks, which has won 12 of the last 13 against Oklahoma and is the only Big 12 program with a winning record against the Sooners, could be a tall order.
Not only is Kansas coming off a loss to Iowa State and trying to avoid back-to-back Big 12 losses for the first time since the 2012-13 season but the Jayhawks are also in the middle of a four-game stretch against ranked teams. The Jayhawks have something to prove as well.
“They are playing very well,” Kruger said. “Defensively, they’re very sound, very solid like they always are. It’s a good combination of hard play and size inside. . . . A lot of really good players playing well, that’s why they’ve only dropped a couple all year. Bill does a great job. The crowd is great. It’ll be a challenge.”
Oklahoma’s biggest challenge will likely be the way it starts the game, not the way it ends it.
In the Sooners’ three conference victories, Oklahoma jumped out to an early lead and let its defense to the rest. Kansas State and West Virginia put the Sooners behind the eight ball with early spurts, and Oklahoma couldn’t rally. They’ve got to keep their confidence up.
“You’d like for that to happen. That’s always the plan,” Kruger said. “That was the plan last week, too, and it didn’t happen. Every time you line up, it’s kind of a unique challenge. You refer to generally the same things: A good low base, working hard, fighting early, getting loose balls. Your opponent has something to do with that.
“It’s a little easier to have that positive emotion at home in front of the home crowd. You’d like to do it on the road.”