By John Shinn
The Norman Transcript
MANHATTAN, Kan. — Maturity had been Oklahoma’s calling card all season. That savvy allowed it to dig out tight victories on the road multiple times this season.
That shrewdness didn’t make the trip to Kansas State on Saturday. The Sooners’ 69-60 loss to the 16th-ranked Wildcats at Bramlage Coliseum showed what happens when it loses that sense.
“When you play a top-ranked team, you have to play better than we did to win,” OU coach Lon Kruger said. “We didn’t play at that level, largely because of Kansas State.”
The Sooners (12-4, 3-1 Big 12) were hoping Saturday would be their chance to make a national statement against a ranked team. For most of the first half they were in position to do so. They led throughout most of the first 16 minutes. The goal of keeping Kansas State guard Rodney McGruder bottled up and making the rest of the Wildcats beat them was working.
Then, McGruder exploded like a bottle of champagne, nailing a trio of 3-pointers in a 97-second span to give the Wildcats a lead they never relinquished.
“In the first 10 minutes, they definitely outplayed us,” Kansas State coach Bruce Weber said. “We jumped on Rod’s back.”
When McGruder, who scored 20 points, nailed the last trey in that run to give Kansas State (15-2, 4-0) a five-point lead with a little over three minutes left in the first half, a sedated crowd of 12,528 went crazy.
“I think when they made those two or three 3s at the end of the first half,” Kruger said, “we went from having the lead to being down five. That happened pretty quickly, and anytime that happens the crowd gets into it.”
The Sooners’ attempt to seize control of the game was doused by 16 turnovers, which the Wildcats turned into 26 points. Only seven of the turnovers were steals. The rest were errant passes.
Romero Osby led OU with 12 points, but committed five of those turnovers. He wasn’t really a factor on the offensive end until the last 10 minutes of the game.
“They were doing a good job of making us extend our offense,” Osby said. “They were pressuring us. They were doing a good job of not really fouling us when we did drive. They were physical, but they got their hands back and didn’t foul us.”
Forward Amath M’Baye added 12 points and Steven Pledger finished with 10. Shooting wasn’t the Sooners’ problem. They made 25 of 53 attempts. Where the shots were falling from was the issue.
Kansas State connected on 10 of 24 3-point attempts. McGruder scored 12 of his total from beyond the arc. Will Spradling finished with 15 and was 3 for 9 from 3-point range. Shane Southwell and Angel Rodriguez both added 12.
“Any club is a lot better when a lot of guys are making shots. Kansas State is very good and when they shoot the ball like that, they’re even better,” Kruger said. “They’re capable of doing that. It’s not a big surprise.”
The stunner was OU’s inability to make a run in the second half. Twice it narrowed the deficit to five points early in the second half, but that was as close as it got. It came down to execution and the Wildcats were just better.
The win was the Wildcats’ eighth in a row, while OU had a five-game winning streak snapped. There’s no time to mourn. The Sooners face Texas on Monday night at Lloyd Noble Center.
They received a lesson from the Wildcats whether they wanted it or not.
“I think our guys came in expecting good things, yet came out realizing we’ve got to do some things better to play at that level,” Kruger said. “We’ll do that. We’ll go back home, get to work and see if we can’t get better.”
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