The Norman Transcript

February 21, 2013

Shinn at 3p.m.: Defense needs to up their game before Baylor

By John Shinn
The Associated Press

LUBBOCK, Texas — Oklahoma can take a lot of positives away from Wednesday night’s victory 86-71 victory over Texas Tech.

It scored a season-high 86 points. Steven Pledger, Romero Osby, Amath M’Baye, Sam Grooms and Cameron Clark all played well.

What it should be nervous about is the play of freshmen guards Isaiah Cousins and Je’lon Hornbeak. Neither played well against the Red Raiders.

Hornbeak suffered a minor ankle injury in the second half and only played 17 minutes. OU coach Lon Kruger said Hornbeak could have returned to the game if needed. However, Hornbeak was just 1-for-6 from the field.

The decision to play Cousins for just 10 minutes was strictly Kruger’s. He struggled with four turnovers (all steals that resulted in a layups by Texas Tech guard Josh Gray) and only took one shot (a miss).

Cousins’ body language after giving up back-to-back steals to Gray midway through the second half spoke volumes. Kruger had to get him out of the game.

Grooms, a senior, fully understood what Cousins was going through.

“Being a point guard, it's tough. If he was out there making plays and everything was going right everybody would have praised him,” Grooms said. “I had to explain to him it's tough right now. It's not as bad as it looks. He made a couple mistakes. Now he's got to regroup and understand that tomorrow he has to get better. I tried to pick him up as much as I could, because I've been there before. I've been there.”

The Sooners need to get both going in positive direction before it faces Baylor Saturday. The reason: defense. Both are OU’s best perimeter defenders and that’s what they need to focus on going forward.

Kruger has shown he can live with the struggles on the offensive end as long as they inflict some on defense.