Six games to go, two games back of Kansas for the Big 12 Conference regular season title but it’s not time for this experienced Oklahoma team, which has four starters closing in on their 100th game together, to panic.
Well, not quite.
“There’s panic because we dropped one,” Oklahoma guard Buddy Hield said. “We’re kind of out of the race in the Big 12. That’s how tough it is. You don’t want to give KU a bunch of daylight, up two games. You’d rather be back one game than two games.
“There’s a lot of panic, but it’s fun. You’ve got to go and compete. . . . It’s a good challenge to see where our team is at, see how mentally focused and how tough we are.”
For Hield, it seems more like a sense of urgency than an increasing level panic.
One of No. 3 Oklahoma’s goals this season was to win the Big 12 title. For Hield, it was important to end Kansas’ run of consecutive titles. The Sooners won’t get another shot at the Jayhawks before the Big 12 Tournament in Kansas City, so they have just one option to catch Kansas.
“We have to win out,” Hield said. “It’s a must.”
Oklahoma’s final stretch includes Saturday’s trip to West Virginia, which is tied with Kansas atop the conference, as well as a road game against Texas and a home game against Baylor. Meanwhile, Kansas has to play road games against Baylor and Texas before a regular season finale at home against Iowa State.
Not everyone is panicking right now, though.
“We realize we still control our own destiny,” Oklahoma forward Ryan Spangler said. “At the same time, we realize we have to start playing defense and playing better if we want to get to where we want to be.”