In early December, the Oklahoma Sooners proved to the nation that they were title contenders by dispatching Villanova by 23 points. The Wildcats have since risen to the No. 1 team in the country.
Lately, they’ve started to look a little more mortal.
In mid-February, everything is starting to come crashing down. The Sooners have lost three of their last four, nearly matching a losing skid from January of last year. Back then, Oklahoma was able to turn the season around and closed the year 8-1 in February.
But after a two-point loss on the road at Texas Tech, which came a little more than a week after a road loss to Kansas State, the Sooners don’t look nearly as potent offensively and their interior has been exposed.
“You’re not going to have perfect games,” Oklahoma guard Jordan Woodard said to reporters after the loss. “. . . We all just missed some open looks as a team we could’ve finished. We need to get stronger on defense.”
Woodard broke out of his slump with a game-high 25 points, the most he’s scored in regulation since Christmas. But Buddy Hield, who scored 10 points in the first seven minutes, missed five 3-pointers in the second half and had just 16 points – potentially falling behind in the race for player of the year after one of his worst performances of the season.
Oklahoma had just six assists compared to 11 turnovers and failed down the stretch, losing a four-point lead in the final minutes. That’s not something a team with four three-year starters is supposed to do.
“Gave up way too many possessions down there in the last few possessions,” Oklahoma coach Lon Kruger said. “Can’t afford to do that. We played really well. We played with a lot of confidence. We’ve got to bounce back and figure out how to do better ourselves.”
Oklahoma’s bigger issues continue to be exposed. The Sooners looked tired, physically worn out and even mentally exhausted at times. They are still learning to value possessions. Depth has become a major issue, and the Sooners lack much in the frontcourt behind starters Spangler and Khadeem Lattin, a duo that has struggled to keep opponents off the offensive glass consistently.
Oklahoma (20-5, 8-5) relies extensively on the 3-pointer.
For the fifth-straight game, the top 3-point shooting team in the nation looked average. Oklahoma went just 6-for-23 from behind the arc and has show less than 32 percent from the field over the last four combined games.
The Sooners had a working formula early in the season, but now, they’ve got to adjust.
The Big 12 Conference regular season title is all but lost – save for a miracle. A No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament is still within their control, but with games on the road against West Virginia and Texas, it’s possible that a few dreams – like playing in Oklahoma City for the first two rounds – could be slowly fading out of reach.