Hoops: The Road Woes Continue

Oklahoma fell to 0-6 in Big 12 road games with a 77-67 loss at Colorado. The Sooners trailed 33-30 at halftime, fell behind 66-51 with 6:18 left before drawing to within five twice in the final 2:18.

GETTING INSIDE

Kind of like the football season, Oklahoma's men's basketball season hasn't gone as planned whatsoever. Wednesday night's 77-67 loss at Colorado dropped the Sooners to 13-12 overall and 4-7 in the Big 12 Conference. There will be no NCAA Tournament for the Sooners, barring a miracle finish at the conference tourney, and there will likely be no NIT as well.

But maybe Oklahoma can still do ... something.

Here's the deal:

Willie Warren came back from mononucleosis and scored 18 points in 30 minutes off the bench against the Buffs. Tiny Gallon, previously suspended indefinitely, was also back Wednesday and grabbed 10 rebounds in 23 minutes off the bench. Andrew Fitzgerald and Steven Pledger were already back following a shoplifting scrape that cost them suiting up two games ago against Texas Tech. And freshman point guard Tommy Mason-Griffin continues to play at a high level, scoring 19 points against the Buffaloes.

The point?

Everybody's back.

The team Jeff Capel might have thought he'd ride right back to the NCAA Tournament is back. Well, going nowhere, perhaps they can pull together and at least salvage a little momentum heading into next season. After all, the cast of characters -- senior Tony Crocker aside -- figures not to change much at all.

As it turns out, the Sooners may be an underdog in every game the rest of the season. Might as well quit worrying about everything going wrong when you're playing a bunch of teams you're not supposed to beat anyway.

Saturday, Kansas State is in Norman, then it's Kansas at Allen Fieldhouse, then Baylor in Norman, then Texas at Austin, then Texas A&M.

What's the old saying?

When you've got nothing, you've got nothing to lose?

That's Oklahoma basketball these days.

COLORADO 77, OKLAHOMA 67: The Sooners stayed close most of the way but couldn't close the deal at Colorado.

Whether it's the altitude or late season fatigue for a few players who have logged a ton of minutes, the Buffs got away thanks to 18 points from Cory Higgins, 17 from Alec Burks and 13 each from Nate Tomlinson and Marcus Relphorde.

The Sooners got 19 points from Tommy Mason-Griffin and Willie Warren. Andrew Fitzgerald added nine.

NOTES, QUOTES

--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.

"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."

--Oklahoma came into the week trailing only Missouri in made 3-pointers among Big 12 teams, though the Sooners' .354 shooting percentage from that distance ranked 10th in the conference. One of their bigger deficiencies is guarding the arc. Opponents had matched OU's 35.4 percent accuracy, which made 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 possessed at the start of the week was the worst in the Big 12.

ON THE SPOT: While the whole team would do well to play well down the stretch with an eye toward next season, nobody could do more for himself than Tiny Gallon. Back from suspension, he grabbed 10 rebounds off the bench against Colorado. If, perhaps, he's learned his lesson, maybe he can play the rest of the season like the high school All-American he was supposed to be. He remains OU's big man of the future. If the big man can be a big man, it could make all kinds of difference to the program.

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, and 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.

GAME REVIEW:
Oklahoma 80, Texas 71
Texas Tech 72, Oklahoma 71
Oklahoma State 97, Oklahoma 76
Colorado 77, Oklahoma 67

GAME PREVIEW:
vs. Kansas State, Saturday, Feb. 20
at Kansas, Monday, Feb. 22
vs. Baylor, Saturday, Feb. 27
at Texas, Monday, March 1

IN FOCUS: The Sooners will be decided underdogs in all five of their remaining regular-season games.

ROSTER REPORT:

--Tony Crocker is the only senior of note among the Sooners, and Wednesday night was a good example of his occasional penchant to disappear. Crocker played 28 minutes and had four points and five rebounds before fouling out.

--Willie Warren was thought to be out for the season with mononucleosis but instead missed just one game and returned Wednesday to throw 19 points at Colorado from off the bench. Warren also played well in his previous game, a home-court loss to Texas Tech. That's good news for the Sooners, even if it only amounts to Warren closing a disappointing season well and looking forward to next season with a strong attitude.


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