It was time his reserves proved their worth because they would be needed in the second half of the conference season. And his starters really needed a break.
The starting five had been averaging 32.4 minutes per player per game. The bench wasn’t taking much pressure of it. Against Kansas State, only two players came off the bench.
Something had to change, and against Texas Tech, Kruger made sure it did. “We made a commitment earlier in practice this week that we were gonna play more people,” Kruger said. “We have to play more people. Those people have to step in and play their minutes better. It’ll be a win-win if we can do that.”
While No. 24 Oklahoma’s big win helped skew the numbers a bit, the Sooners’ bench recorded 76 minutes – the most in Big 12 play. It also outscored Texas Tech’s bench, 18-17. It was the first time Oklahoma (13-7, 4-4 Big 12) had a higher scoring bench in Big 12 play.
The 18-point total was the fifth-highest point output of the season and second-highest against a major conference opponent.
“We'd love to be able to keep that up,” Kruger said. “ . . . It was much improved in terms of getting our bench in early and them playing their minutes better and getting our starters to log fewer minutes is important.”
Oklahoma, which had no player in for more than point guard Jordan Woodard’s 28 minutes, rotated eight players pretty freely, and Frank Booker led all players off the bench with eight points, his second-highest total of the season.
No ill effects for Cousins
If Oklahoma guard Isaiah Cousins was feeling any negative impact from his strained right wrist, he didn’t show it.
Cousins helped ignite the Oklahoma defense that forced 17 turnovers, which turned into 32 points, and held the Red Raiders (11-10, 1-7) without a field goal for more than eight minutes in the first half and to just one point during a 10-minute gap that spanned halftime.
With a lightly wrapped right hand, Cousins got out to the court early for pre-game shoot around. He wasn’t nervous about the wrist, which he injured in a collision with a Baylor player, but he wanted to see how it was going to feel after two days of treatment.
“Even if my wrist wasn’t going to work I was gonna make plays for my teammates,” Cousins said.
Cousins posted a team-leading five assists and three steals to go along with 13 points on an efficient 5-for-8 shooting performance. He had no turnovers.
Lattin ‘OK’ out of position
Sooners’ freshman forward Khadeem Lattin won’t be counted on to produce much on the offensive end at this point in his career, but on Wednesday night, he showed what he can do defensively.
Playing in a career-high 19 minutes off the bench, Lattin recorded five blocks and pulled down four rebounds – third on the team. Kruger laughed after the game because Lattin wasn’t always where he needs to be, but “that’s OK.”
“He's a guy that's got to take advantage and use his activity, because he's so quick and he's so bouncy,” Kruger said. “ . . . That's kind of what we're encouraging for him is—go play, go be aggressive, fly around and he's going to keep getting better and better.”
Lattin was the first big off the bench when TaShawn Thomas checked out three minutes into the game. Twenty-five seconds later, Lattin had his first block of the game. Combined with senior forward Ryan Spangler, Lattin set the physical tone early. Spangler finished with three blocks as Oklahoma, which tied a season-high with 10 rejections, showed its toughness on the defensive end.
“We've got a ways to go in those areas and yet the last two days we've gotten better,” Kruger said.