NORMAN — Balance has been a key for Oklahoma all season. It’s gotten to 13-5 and 4-2 in the Big 12 Conference because it hasn’t been overly reliant on one player to score, rebound or even play a massive amount of minutes.
However, Saturday’s 67-54 loss to No. 3 Kansas showed the Sooners can only do so much without a spectacular individual performance.
OU didn’t have one against Kansas. Romero Osby and Amath M’Baye both scored 12 points apiece, which is about what they average. Steven Pledger finished with 10. He averages 11. Buddy Hield added his typical nine-point outing.
One of them needed to have a huge offensive game for the Sooners to win.
Osby and Pledger were the most likely candidates. What makes the Jayhawks an elite team is their ability to negate teams’ best low-post and perimeter scorers.
Pledger only took eight shots in 29 minutes. He couldn’t shake Kansas’ Travis Releford enough to get in a serious offensive flow. Withey’s shot-blocking ability frustrated Osby even when he was taking 18-foot jump shots. He also closed down paths to the basket for everyone else.
“Kansas is awfully good. They were great, defensively,” OU coach Lon Kruger said. “They have a lot of guys on the perimeter who guard the ball very well. Then Withey changes everything on the interior and does a terrific job. I thought he set the tone early in the ball game.”
The Sooners’ game plan was built around Osby making perimeter shots and pulling the 7-foot Withey away from the basket. It was the only way they were going to get easy shots. It didn’t happen and the 21-for-59 shooting effort followed.
“He does that with everybody, he makes it really tough, especially going to the basket,” Osby said. “He has good timing. You try to get him off the floor with pump fakes, but he stays down. He has a knack for it. He makes it tough for everybody.”