Hoops: Road Woes Continue

The Jan. 30 game at Nebraska was pushed back several hours to permit the Oklahoma travel party time to get its bearings after finally getting out of icy conditions back home. The Sooners did not arrive in Lincoln until the day of the game, though OU coach Jeff Capel was adamant not to use the travel difficulties as an excuse.

GETTING INSIDE

It is beginning to appear as if Oklahoma will not get it done on the road in Big 12 play.

Blame the loss at Nebraska on other matters if you want. The Sooners' departure was delayed by an ice storm that made travel treacherous. Plus, the Sooners used two guards, Willie Warren and Tony Crocker, who were playing with sprained right ankles.

Still, the Huskers entered the game with an 0-5 mark in conference play and less talent than the Sooners. But Oklahoma made just one of its first 12 shots and never recovered from its early deficit, falling 63-46. The point total was the worst of the season for the Sooners, who dipped to 12-9 overall and 3-4 in the Big 12.

A team that entered the season hopeful of a high finish in the conference, as well as the NCAA Tournament bid that went with it, will have to scrap to finish .500 in league play. And that might require the preservation of a perfect home mark.

"You could obviously tell that Willie and Tony were very rusty," OU coach Jeff Capel said. "Tony hasn't practiced, and it was probably my fault for playing him, and playing him this many minutes (25) especially. … (Warren) was hobbling, he was just a shell of himself."

Already thin, the Sooners can ill afford injuries. Still, they figured to at least make a game out of it playing the last-place Huskers.

NOTES, QUOTES

--The Jan. 30 game at Nebraska was pushed back several hours to permit the Oklahoma travel party time to get its bearings after finally getting out of icy conditions back home. The Sooners did not arrive in Lincoln until the day of the game, though OU coach Jeff Capel was adamant not to use the travel difficulties as an excuse.

--Injuries prevented G Tony Crocker and G Willie Warren from playing in the Jan. 27 win against Iowa State. The two average almost 22 shot attempts a game, prompting G Tommy Mason-Griffin to launch 21 tries against the Cyclones. The result was a career-best 38 points for the freshman.

ON THE SPOT: Depth is a huge issue for Oklahoma, even without injuries. But with G Tony Crocker and G Willie Warren playing on tender ankles, the Sooners are extremely short-handed. Quick recoveries are needed, but the ailments point to OU's vulnerability. Fortunately for the Sooners, they have other shooters in their backcourt. Any injury problems along the frontcourt could prove even more harmful.

QUOTE TO NOTE: "Travel (to Nebraska) was what it was. It was different than what we do. We got here in plenty of time. We got some rest and got a good night's sleep back at home instead of having to wait to fly in and see if we could get a plane. That's not an excuse. They just outplayed us, out-toughed us. That's something we have to do a better job with." -- Oklahoma coach Jeff Capel.

STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL

SEASON RECAP: Oklahoma so far has managed to cling to its homecourt advantage, producing five-point wins in each of its Big 12 games in Lloyd Noble Arena, against Oklahoma State, Missouri and Iowa State. If the Sooners can maintain that edge and eventually steal a couple of road wins in the conference, they could still claim a first-round bye in the Big 12 Tournament. That seems like a tall order, however, based on Oklahoma's shortage of depth.

PLAYER ROTATION: Usual Starters -- F Tiny Gallon, G Tony Crocker, G Willie Warren, G Cade Davis, G Tommy Mason-Griffin. Key Subs -- F Ryan Wright, F Andrew Fitzgerald, G Steven Pledger.

GAME REVIEW:
Texas Tech 75, Oklahoma 65
Oklahoma 89, Iowa State 84
Nebraska 63, Oklahoma 46

GAME PREVIEW:
vs. Texas, Saturday, Feb. 6
vs. Texas Tech, Tuesday, Feb. 9
at Oklahoma State, Saturday, Feb. 13
at Colorado, Wednesday, Feb. 17
vs. Kansas State, Saturday, Feb. 20


IN FOCUS: Texas is reeling, losing three times in four games and coming off a home-court defeat against Baylor. Still, the Longhorns possess as much depth as anyone in the Big 12, which could pose a problem for the short-handed Sooners. F Damion James continues to be a force capable of a double-double on any night. Texas Tech has not been a good road team and figures to be vulnerable, though G John Roberson is adept running the offense.

ROSTER REPORT:

--G Cade Davis was an iron man for Oklahoma, playing all but three minutes in the three games prior to the Nebraska visit. However, he sat for most of the first half at NU after acquiring two quick fouls. Davis still managed a team-high 13 points.

--G Tony Crocker and G Willie Warren each missed the Iowa State game with ankle injuries, which also limited their effectiveness at Nebraska. Without the two guards, the Sooners used just seven players against the Cyclones.

--G Steven Pledger remains cold from 3-point range, going just 3-for-23 in Big 12 play while missing nine straight in games against Texas Tech, Iowa State and Nebraska. The freshman began his career hitting his first six 3-point attempts.


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