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February 2, 2013

Sooners can’t fall into February funk

(Continued)

NORMAN —

“It really becomes about who is the toughest, who is the most physical and who is gonna compete and have the heart to win the game,” Osby said.

The Sooners fell short in all three categories the last three seasons. However, the differences between the three predecessors and the team that will take the court today are multiple.

Toughness is required to win close games. OU improved to 7-2 in games decided by seven points or less with Wednesday’s victory at Baylor.

The physical play has risen because OU has a deeper bench than any of those three previous teams. Starters aren’t gasping for breath in the final 10 minutes because they still have some energy left in the tank. They also have experienced depth with three of OU’s four players coming off the bench — forward Andrew Fitzgerald, forward Cameron Clark and guard Sam Grooms — all have experienced the rigors of at least one Big 12 season.

The heart … well, that has been repeatedly crushed in February. The Sooners are about to find out if theirs has healed.

Winning is what keeps the blood pumping at this time of year. The Sooners had a six-game February losing streak in 2010, a seven-game losing streak in 2011 and dropped six in a row in 2012. By March, each season was sunk and nothing was salvageable.

“Winning is the energy boost and we’re trying to keep that on track and get all the energy we can,” Clark said.

Kansas State is the first opponent in the stretch that will ultimately define OU’s season. If it really wants to get back on the national stage, the time has arrived to prove it.

John Shinn

Follow me @john_shinn

jshinn@normantranscript.com

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