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January 5, 2013

Sooners believe they’re ready for Big 12

NORMAN — The 12 games Oklahoma played through the last two months were all in preparation for today.

It opens Big 12 Conference play at 3 p.m. today against West Virginia at the WVU Coliseum in Morgantown, W.V. The grueling conference grind is about to begin.

It will be a tough environment, but one OU has conditioned itself to play in.

“Yes, I think we’re in a lot better shape. Last year, we got off to a pretty good start and then we lost some key games we thought we should have won. I don’t think we really learned from that,” forward Romero Osby said. “We went on the road a lot this year and got out of our comfort zone. We have three losses to show for it, but we were able to gain some experience for the young guys. I think we’ll have a better opportunity in the Big 12 because we played some tough road games in the non-conference schedule.”

Success in the Big 12 is dependent on winning at least a couple road games. Just breaking even away from the home court is usually enough to earn an NCAA Tournament bid.

OU hasn’t come close to getting one since 2009. The reason: the woeful performance in conference road games. The Sooners have two wins in their last 25 conference road games since 2010.

OU coach Lon Kruger beefed up the non-conference schedule with the hopes of toughening his team for the long haul. The conference opener against the Mountaineers marks the eighth game away from Norman. The Sooners went 5-2 in those previous seven games — including a 77-70 victory over West Virginia — and enters conference play at No. 25 in the latest Ratings Percentage Index.

The Sooners believe they’re a better, tougher team than at any point in the previous three seasons.

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