The Norman Transcript

February 18, 2014

Two extra days of rest could help OU keep its edge during final season stretch

By John Shinn
The Norman Transcript

NORMAN — It’s been a long season and Oklahoma was rewarded with a slight break this week. It doesn’t play again until Kansas State comes to Lloyd Noble Center Saturday, but will get two days off instead of the typical one.

The Sooners rested Sunday after the 77-74 victory over Oklahoma State. OU coach Lon Kruger said the players will get Wednesday off as well.

Keeping players fresh this time of year is the tightrope all coaches try to walk. In OU’s case, it had played two conference games a week for the previous six weeks.

“It is a balance. Freshness is as important as anything this time of year. Fresh legs are way up on our priority list,” OU coach Lon Kruger said. “At the same time, you have to practice. You have to get better.”

Barring a massive collapse over the last five games, OU (19-7, 8-5 Big 12) is going to get an at-large bid to the NCAA tournament for the second straight year.

But what happens in the final three weeks of the regular season and the Big 12 tournament will have a major impact on the Sooners’ seed.

“I think the teams that will distinguish themselves in the next three weeks in terms of making progress are the teams that get into the post season tournaments and have success,” Kruger said.

“You have to continue to make progress and get better,” Kruger said. “Our guys have done that throughout the year and I think they’ll continue that.”

Fouling practice: One late-game situation that will get a little work this week is what to do when OU’s up by three in points in the final seconds and wants to foul to prevent an opponent from getting off a potential game-tying 3-pointer.

The Sooners wanted to foul OSU’s Markel Brown around mid-court as he drove for his last-second 3-point attempt. Guards Isaiah Cousins and Je’lon Hornbeak both could’ve at mid-court, but didn’t do enough to draw a foul call.

“You certainly don’t want an intentional foul called. You practice that in practice. You work on going for the ball and going through the body,” Kruger said. “Both of our guys were very tentative with their foul efforts. They have to be much more aggressive without causing an intentional foul.”

Road wins: The Bedlam victory lifted OU to 4-3 in Big 12 road games. It and No. 7 Kansas are the only Big 12 teams with above. 500 records in Big 12 road games. The Jayhawks are 4-2, including a win at OU on Jan. 8.

The Sooners have two road games left this season. At Kansas next Monday and at TCU on March 8 in the regular-season finale.

“Anytime you can get a road win, especially at this time in conference play, it’s huge,” Kruger said. “It was our fourth conference road win, which is always good.”

Rankings can change: OU did pay a price for last week’s home loss to Texas Tech. It remained unranked in the latest Associated Press Top 25 released on Monday. The Sooners also dropped out of the USA Today coaches poll for the first time in five weeks.

In the all-important Ratings Percentage Index, OU dropped five spots to No. 27. Its next three games will be against teams ranked in the top 35 of the RPI. Kansas State is No. 35. Kansas is No. 1 and Texas is No. 21.

John Shinn

Follow me @john_shinn

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