He didn’t exactly back off that statement after Oklahoma’s seven-point loss to Kansas, but he was able to take plenty of good despite another game in the loss column.
Oklahoma fell behind by 20 points in the first half and rallied back. Less than two weeks ago, the Sooners fell behind West Virginia and never showed any fight.
On Monday, they showed plenty.
“We feel good about the fact that they hung together, came back out and fought and competed,” Kruger said. “. . . Still, obviously disappointed in the end result but you take the good from every ball game. The fight in the second half was definitely good. We have to build on that.”
Oklahoma (12-6, 3-3 Big 12) erased a 19-point halftime deficit in just less than 10 minutes, something Kruger said he didn’t think the Sooners expected to be able to do. Kansas hasn’t lost to Oklahoma in Phog Allen Fieldhouse since 1993, but the Sooners proved that they are a much improved team.
“Certainly, you feel good about that,” Kruger said.
Oklahoma could have just chalked up another road loss to an incredible performance by the home team, like it did 10 days ago against West Virginia. That didn’t happen though, even after Kansas hit its first eight 3-pointers and shot 57.6 percent from the field in the first half.
What made Oklahoma’s run though wasn’t its dedication. It was a willingness to go away from the 3-pointer, not falling into the belief that it had to get the entire deficit back in one shot.
“We got some deflections that turned into transition that got us going a little bit in the second half,” Kruger said.
Oklahoma attempted just one 3-pointer – a make by Hield – in the first seven minutes of the second half. When Hield finally shot his second 3-pointer of the half, it pulled the Sooners within four points.
Isaiah Cousins’ deep try two possessions later pulled Oklahoma within one before Hield tied the game with a 3-pointer from the wing.
The Sooners didn’t come back to life by the 3, but they died by it. Oklahoma missed its final seven shots and went 1-for-9 down the stretch. Every shot Oklahoma took in the final 4:30 was a 3.
D.J. Bennett providing bench support
TaShawn Thomas’ first game against Kansas was certainly not what he hoped.
The Oklahoma transfer shot just 1-for-7 from the field and had only four rebounds. D.J. Bennett has previous experience in Lawrence.
He showed it Monday, stepping in and playing 14 minutes. After playing just six minutes in the first four Big 12 games, Bennett has played in 25 in the past two.
Bennett finished with four points and five rebounds but had a key block late and scored on a put back to extend Oklahoma’s lead.
“I thought DJ stepped in and played his minutes really well,” Kruger said. “A couple big boards. He contested some shots. I thought DJ did a really good job. Tay had a tough time getting started and he never really did get into his flow. He’ll bounce back.”
Bennett did pick up two fouls late that led to four points.
”Billy Tubbs Reunion Special”
Oklahoma announced Monday that a series focusing on former Sooners’ coach Billy Tubbs will begin Tuesday at 10 p.m.
The series will focus on the most memorable moments of Tubbs’ 14-year career at Oklahoma.
There will be five parts to the series:
Tuesday, Jan. 20 at 10 p.m., FS Oklahoma
Friday, Jan. 23, 11 a.m., FSSW
Saturday, Jan. 24, 9 p.m., FSOK
Wednesday, Jan. 28, 3 p.m., FSSW
Saturday, Jan. 31, 4 p.m., FSOK
“Billy Ball,” three-time All-American Wayman Tisdale and the Oklahoma national runner-up in 1998 among many others will also be discussed on the open-forum style program.