Handling adversity has not been one of Oklahoma's strengths.
It has even caused Jeff Capel to address body language, both publicly and privately.
"Good body language is you're always into it," said the Sooners coach. "There's a certain passion. There's a certain look. A look of determination. A look of, ‘I'm going to do everything I can to help my team.'"
The message Capel was sending was mostly aimed at Willie Warren, a sophomore guard who was appointed as the Sooners' leader following the loss of All-American forward Blake Griffin off last season's Elite Eight team.
Warren finally began accepting the message, but then was curtailed by a twisted ankle, which prevented him from playing Jan. 23 at Texas Tech. The Sooners suffered a 75-65 defeat and fell to 11-8 overall and 2-3 in the Big 12.
The loss was the second straight on the road in which Oklahoma was in it down the stretch. It also tumbled, 65-62, at Texas A&M.
"I felt like we let two get away," said senior guard Tony Crocker.
From a positive standpoint, Oklahoma isn't rolling over on the road. But on the flip side, its so-so record is beginning to put the Sooners' quest to secure an NCAA Tournament berth in jeopardy.
--Production from the frontcourt was spotty in Oklahoma's loss at Texas Tech on Jan. 23 and could become a growing concern if F Tiny Gallon cannot avoid foul trouble. The Sooners matched the Red Raiders on the boards with 40 rebounds, but starting forwards Ryan Wright and Andrew Fitzgerald combined for just seven points. Fitzgerald didn't score or rebound in the six minutes he played. Gallon contributed five points and four rebounds over 16 minutes.
--Lubbock remains a tough place for G Willie Warren. The sophomore missed the loss at Texas Tech after spraining his ankle in practice two days earlier. A year ago, Warren went scoreless against the Red Raiders in United Spirit Arena, playing just 12 minutes and missing all three shots he attempted.
ON THE SPOT: Foul trouble incurred by F Tiny Gallon is forcing Oklahoma coach Jeff Capel to use the 6-9 freshman differently. Gallon is coming off the bench in an attempt to preserve the minutes he can be used, yet he played just 22 minutes against Texas A&M, then 16 minutes against Texas Tech. "He has to grow up," Capel said of the highly-touted newcomer. In contrast, another freshman, G Tommy Mason-Griffin, logged 40 minutes running the point against Tech.
QUOTE TO NOTE: "We had chances to do things (at Texas Tech), but we would do something not too smart, foul on 3s and just the rebounding, letting them come in and get stuff. We didn't dive on the floor for loose balls. That also hurt." -- Oklahoma G Tony Crocker.
STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
SEASON RECAP: The Oklahoma defense has been stingy enough to keep the Sooners in the last four games, allowing 64.5 points on average with opponents shooting just 36.9 percent from the field. The Sooners managed to go 2-2 over that stretch, with none of the outcomes decided by more than 10 points. The defensive intensity is a marked improvement over the Big 12 opener, which Oklahoma lost 91-60 at Baylor.
PLAYER ROTATION: Usual Starters -- F Tiny Gallon, G Tony Crocker, G Cade Davis, G Willie Warren, G Tommy Mason-Griffin. Key Subs -- F Ryan Wright, F Andrew Fitzgerald, G Ray Willis, G Steven Pledger.
Oklahoma 66, Missouri 61
Texas A&M 65, Oklahoma 62
Texas Tech 75, Oklahoma 65
vs. Iowa State, Wednesday, Jan. 27
at Nebraska, Saturday, Jan. 30
vs. Texas, Saturday, Feb. 6
vs. Texas Tech, Tuesday, Feb. 9
at Oklahoma State, Saturday, Feb. 13
Both of Oklahoma's Big 12 victories have come at home, where the Sooners play host to Iowa State. Both teams use shortened rotations. The Cyclones have only eight scholarship players available, but feature a nice frontcourt tandem in Craig Brackins and Marquis Gilstrap. Gilstrap has posted double-doubles in each of ISU's first four league games. The trip to Nebraska affords the Sooners one of their best opportunities to claim a conference road win.
--G Willie Warren suffered an ankle injury in practice two days before the game at Texas Tech and did not play. He leads the Sooners with a 17.6-point average, which ranks sixth in the Big 12. Warren accompanied the team to Texas Tech, but his right ankle was in a boot. He is expected to be available for the Iowa State game.
--G Tommy Mason-Griffin recorded his second career-best in as many games, netting 26 points at Texas Tech. That gave him 47 points over the two-game stretch on 7-for-13 shooting from 3-point range.
--G Tony Crocker managed the sixth double-double of his career with 20 points and 13 rebounds at Texas Tech. All of the double-doubles have come in the last 13 games, though the showing at Tech was his first in Big 12 play.
--G Steven Pledger is mired in a cold spell, going 0-for-11 in the losses at Texas A&M and at Texas Tech. The freshman is 4-for-24 over the past four games.
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