When: 7:05 p.m. CST
TV/Radio: ESPN2/107.7 FM(OKC); 1430 AM (Tulsa)
Series: Oklahoma, 132-95
Lattin stepping up
As Oklahoma freshman Khadeem Lattin drove to the basket off a steal in the open court, he wanted to do something crazy.
Maybe a 360 or a 360 windmill dunk, he thought, as took those final steps to the basket. Instead, he just rocked the ball back in his right hand and threw down a heavy-handed slam.
He didn’t want to miss, because he wanted to stay on the floor. He wanted to keep playing, so he didn’t do anything wild.
The opposite might have been better, because wild and crazy is basically the role that Oklahoma coach Lon Kruger envisioned for Lattin.
The 6-foot-9 freshman is just starting to figure that out.
“I knew that’s what he wanted for a while now,” Lattin said. “It’s just been an adjustment getting to that part with the confidence and the mentality. . . . Just figuring out how to do it was a really big step for me. Once I figured out to do it, that’s when I really stepped up.”
Lattin played a career-high 19 minutes off the bench against Texas Tech and blocked a career-high five shots – tying the team single-game high.
After being one of the first options on offense in high school, Lattin faced a bit of a transition coming to Oklahoma, where he said there’s scoring all over the court.
“We’ve got all the scoring talent in the world,” Lattin said when describing his role. “(Coach Krger) just really needed someone to really just pick us up. He needed an energy guy. He needed a guy that was going to be gritty on defense and just be hard-nosed. That’s what he’s always expected from me.
“Now, I’m delivering.”
The Great Dunk Debate
Oklahoma had two really special dunks against the Red Raiders. After Lattin threw down his one-handed slam, 6-foot point guard Jordan Woodard slammed home a fast break dunk of his own, albeit not nearly as thunderous as Lattin’s.
One day later, there was no question who had the better of the two dunks.
“I thought he was going to do that strong lay-up thing. When he just took off and pulled it back, I was like,” Lattin said pausing for effect. “I didn’t know what to do. I didn’t know how to celebrate for it. I wasn’t prepared for it.”
Woodard took more credit for his own dunk.
“Mine was better,” Woodard said with a smile. “Khadeem is 7-foot, that’s what he’s supposed to do.”
Woodard quickly added that when Lattin starts throwing out more assists, they’ll be even.
That big win against Texas Tech might have been exactly the tonic Oklahoma was looking for – just like the Sooners’ first Bedlam victory snapped a two-game losing streak.
“Our morale wasn’t low, but it wasn’t where it should have been,” Lattin said. “Getting a win like that, it boosted everyone’s confidence. It said that we work for something every day. That was our reward.”
With Oklahoma still holding serve on the home-away portion of its schedule, the Sooners have a chance to go on a run.
Three of the Sooners’ next four road games could fall into the ‘winnable’ category.
Going on the road in Stillwater, where the Cowboys are unbeaten in league play but anything can happen in a rivalry game, on Saturday and trips to TCU and Texas Tech before the end of February gives Oklahoma a chance to score up to three road victories in the next three weeks. The toughest road game might be against Kansas State.
“We needed that win to get our confidence up,” Spangler said. “Now, we know what it takes to win a game, especially on the road. I think if we play that hard and execute that good, we’ll be fine most games.”
Oklahoma will need road wins because it faces West Virginia and Iowa State in Lloyd Noble Center during the next 10 days, and lessons learned from the best defensive performance in Big 12 history will help.
“It felt good to play defense as a team for 40 minutes,” Spangler said. “We know we’re going to have to do that to win games in the Big 12.”