Oklahoma probably created too much pressure for Willie Warren before the season ever started, pointing to the sophomore guard as a leader who could help the Sooners overcome the loss of the nation's best player in 2009, Blake Griffin.
Warren wasn't ready for the spotlight, despite some terrific performances last season when Griffin was out with a concussion.
The pressure only got worse when Warren failed to deliver, drew the ire of coach Jeff Capel and then was hit by injury and illness. He missed a Feb. 13 game at Oklahoma State after contracting mononucleosis. The Sooners tumbled 97-76 and are in jeopardy of getting passed over for any kind of postseason bid with marks of 13-11 overall and 4-6 in the Big 12.
"It's just been a down season for Willie. Everything's going bad," said Tommy Mason-Griffin, a freshman point guard who's been asked to account for the production Warren supplied. "The biggest thing he can do is wait until he gets 100 percent and go from there."
By then, it might be too late for the Sooners to make a concerted postseason push. The expected recovery time for Warren stemming from his illness was unknown. He leads the Sooners with a 16.2-point average, but missed two previous games with an ankle injury.
Thin all season, Oklahoma also was hurt by an indefinite suspension slapped on forward Tiny Gallon. Reasons for the suspension were not disclosed. The 6-9 freshman leads the Sooners in rebounding with an 8.0 average.
--Oklahoma trails only Missouri in made 3-pointers among Big 12 teams, though the Sooners' .354 shooting percentage from that distance ranks 10th in the conference. One of their bigger deficiencies is guarding the arc. Opponents have matched OU's 35.4 percent accuracy, which makes the Sooners the second-worst team in the Big 12 defending 3-point shooters. The stats played out in the 97-76 loss Oklahoma State handed Oklahoma on Feb. 13 as both teams drained 14 treys.
--The scoring margin of plus-1.5 Oklahoma possesses is the worst in the Big 12.
ON THE SPOT: The lack of any presence underneath causes Oklahoma to settle for 3-pointers and attempt to beat opponents with outside marksmanship. With F Tiny Gallon suspended for the game at Oklahoma State, the Cowboys got just six points from its frontcourt. The lack of size also resulted in a 36-29 disadvantage on the boards.
QUOTE TO NOTE: "We just seemed a step slow with some stuff, and when you come into this environment and play (Oklahoma State), especially (in Stillwater), they're faster here. And they have obviously more energy here, which most teams do at home. You can't afford to do that." -- Oklahoma coach Jeff Capel.
STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
SEASON RECAP: Oklahoma is winless on the road in the Big 12, going 0-5 while losing by 16.4 points on average. The Sooners had successfully defended their homecourt before falling 72-71 against Texas Tech on Feb. 9. Issues with depth could be resulting in fatigue. Two Sooners, G Cade Davis and G Tommy Mason-Griffin, went the distance in the loss at OSU after playing 37 and 38 minutes, respectively, against Tech.
PLAYER ROTATION: Usual Starters -- F Ryan Wright, G Tony Crocker, G Willie Warren, G Cade Davis, G Tommy Mason-Griffin. Key Subs -- F Tiny Gallon, F Andrew Fitzgerald, G Steven Pledger, G Ray Willis.
Oklahoma 80, Texas 71
Texas Tech 72, Oklahoma 71
Oklahoma State 97, Oklahoma 76
at Colorado, Wednesday, Feb. 17
vs. Kansas State, Saturday, Feb. 20
at Kansas, Monday, Feb. 22
vs. Baylor, Saturday, Feb. 27
at Texas, Monday, March 1
IN FOCUS: One of the best opportunities to end a winless road string in Big 12 play comes with a visit to Colorado. The Buffaloes, however, are better, especially at home, where they beat Baylor and Nebraska, and also extended Kansas into overtime. Oklahoma will need all the bodies it can summon against Kansas State because of the Wildcats' ability to crash the offensive boards.
--F Andrew Fitzgerald and G Steven Pledger returned for the Oklahoma State game Feb. 13 after serving one-game suspensions stemming from a shoplifting incident in Norman.
--G Willie Warren, the Sooners' leading scorer with a 16.2-point average, missed the Oklahoma State game with mononucleosis. He did not travel with the Sooners and his return is unknown. G Cade Davis logged 40 minutes despite recovering from bronchitis.
--F Tiny Gallon also missed the Oklahoma State game after drawing an indefinite suspension, which was categorized by OU officials as an internal matter.
Warren Wasn't Ready for the Spotlight
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