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February 10, 2013

Kruger’s Sooners now have a huge moment

NORMAN — They all count. That’s the thing.

Who can remember the last time the Jayhawks lost three straight games? Who can remember the best team in the Big 12 taking a swan dive like the Jayhawks have taken?

It’s beside the point.

It’s unimportant.

Because they all count.

Oklahoma beat Kansas 72-66 Saturday afternoon at Lloyd Noble Center.

After three straight losing Sooner seasons, it’s the program’s biggest win since Blake Griffin was filling the joint in 2009, leading OU to a 13-3 conference mark and an Elite Eight appearance, the last time OU even sniffed the postseason.

The first half woke the echoes of Billy Tubbs’ program past, the two teams on a 200-point-between-them pace almost to the second media timeout.

The second half offered the OU-KU series of Kelvin Sampson and Roy Williams, both teams doing anything to buy a bucket and frequently failing.

The end?

Just maybe it was the stuff that will mark Lon Kruger’s Sooner tenure. The kinds of things that, years down the line, after another narrow victory over another top-five foe, folks will stop and think to themselves, You know, it all began that February Saturday afternoon against the Jayhawks.

Down the stretch, OU didn’t turn it over, produced sound offensive possessions on one end and strong defensive possessions on the other, creating the kind of calm environment that allowed a freshman reserve, Je’Lon Hornbeak, to score seven straight points that put the game away.

The Jayhawks made it a two-point game, 63-61, before the youngster from Arlington, Texas, knocked down a 3 with 1:18 remaining and followed by hitting front ends of back-to-back one-and-ones before, fouled again, making both tosses, giving OU a 70-66 edge with 16 tics remaining. When Elijah Johnson missed on the other end, it was really over.

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