The Norman Transcript

February 26, 2014

Sooners can still improve seed

By John Shinn
The Norman Transcript

NORMAN — It’s late in the regular season. The time for “good” losses has long passed for Oklahoma. Any way you look at it, Monday’s 83-75 loss at No. 5 Kansas was a setback.

The Sooners (20-8, 9-6 Big 12) now find themselves in fourth place in the league with three games left. The Jayhawks have clinched at least a tie for the regular-season crown. No. 15 Iowa State and No. 24 Texas are both a half game ahead of OU and tied for second — for now.

What OU should’ve left Kansas fully understanding is it has nothing to fear the rest of the way. Once it settled in, OU was right there.

What truly separated OU from Kansas were a handful of lapses on both ends of the floor. It was a game of runs. Typically, college basketball games follow that formula. The Sooners’ issue was they were forced to play catch-up too many times. Twice, OU rallied from double-digit deficits to take the lead. What it didn’t do was throw in a run of its own to build a sizable advantage. It never led by more than four points.

The reason: eight second-half turnovers. Kansas scored 10 points off them. It was the difference in the game.

“We have to learn from that and we know we are still growing and it’s just errors that we can get better on,” OU forward Cameron Clark said after scoring a team-high 18 points.

The positive thing for OU: Monday night was their last time in a brutal road environment. The Longhorns come to Lloyd Noble Center at 3 p.m. Saturday. West Virginia visits March 5 in the home finale. The regular season ends at TCU on March 8.

After that, it’s on to the Big 12 tournament in Kansas City, Mo. and the NCAA tournament.

What happened certainly didn’t damage OU’s seed for March Madness. Most see OU as no worse than a No. 7 seed if the bracket came out today.

Win three straight to close the regular season and make a run in the Big 12 tournament and OU could certainly improve its seed.

Finishing second in the league remains on the table. A win over Texas on Saturday would actually give OU the edge in a three-way tiebreaker with the Longhorns and Cyclones. OU split with Iowa State. A win Saturday means a sweep against Texas.

The goal Saturday and beyond is to dodge those three-minute lapses that ultimately cost OU Monday night.

“Every possession is just too significant,” OU coach Lon Kruger said. “There were a few times that we didn’t complete a play and they converted on the other end. We have to learn to be a little stronger in those moments, but I’m proud of the guy’s effort. I thought we fought. We will grow from this, we will learn from it and I look forward to trying to get better for Texas on Saturday.”

John Shinn

Follow me @john_shinn

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