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January 25, 2013

Allen Fieldhouse offers new test for Sooner frosh

NORMAN — Bucket lists are for those who have at least reached middle age. College freshmen still have plenty of time to assemble what they want to experience in life.

However, Oklahoma’s Je’lon Hornbeak and Buddy Hield have already started working on what they want to experience during their collegiate careers.

Among their goals was to play in some of the most vaunted venues.

“We want to play at Duke and we wanted to play at Kansas. Those were the main two,” Hornbeak said.

A game at Duke’s Cameron Indoor Stadium won’t occur anytime soon, but they can check off Kansas’ Allen Fieldhouse when the Sooners (13-4, 4-1 Big 12) face the third-ranked Jayhawks (17-1, 5-0) at 3 p.m. Saturday.

The excitement Hornbeak and Hield have for playing at Kansas is one of the strange dynamics of Big 12 Conference basketball. Oklahoma hasn’t won there since 1993. Back then, Billy Tubbs was head coach, but he had more success in that arena than any OU coach over the last 30 years. Tubbs went 4-10 in games there.

Kelvin Sampson’s squads went 117-59 from 1994-95 through 2005-06. A Final Four banner was hung in 2002, an Elite Eight appearance came in 2003. In 2005, OU shared the Big 12 regular-season title with the Jayhawks. However, Sampson’s teams were 0-6 on Kansas’ court. Jeff Capel went 0-2 during his five seasons.

Lon Kruger is no stranger to taking teams in college basketball’s more treasured arenas. He did it as a player at Kansas State in the early 1970s and did it once a year as the Wildcats’ coach from 1986-1990.

Ask Kansas State fans what his biggest win as a coach was and it might be its win at Allen Fieldhouse in 1988 that halted the Jayhawks’ 55-game home winning streak.

Ask Kruger what his toughest loss as a player was and Kansas State’s 60-55 loss in Lawrence in 1974 — his final game there as a player — comes up quickly. There’s no doubt Kruger has a sincere respect for the venue.

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