NORMAN — The climb from where Oklahoma has been the last three seasons to where it wants to be has certain thresholds that must be crossed.
One appeared to occur Wednesday night in Tulsa against Oral Roberts.
The Sooners trailed by 10 points with 9 minutes left, a familiar spot last season from which they rarely escaped.
This time, the Sooners did escape with a 63-62 victory over the Golden Eagles.
“Last year, we probably would have given up or just hung our head,” OU forward Romero Osby said. “Tonight, we battled back and just kept telling ourselves, ‘We’re going to win this game.’ We fought our way back.”
It’s an important step because teams rarely play 40 minutes of great basketball. What winning teams to do is figure out how to stay in games until the great five-minute spurt comes along.
OU was lethargic for about 31 minutes on Wednesday night. After making the first basket, it didn’t take the lead again until there was less than four minutes left.
The win was OU coach Lon Kruger’s 499th in a career that dates back 27 years. There was one to get to the Final Four at Florida in 1994. Others were for conference titles or big wins in the NCAA Tournament.
But many of the wins were like Wednesday’s.
“We were fortunate to learn a lot from this ballgame and still have it be in the right column so I feel good about that, but we still have a lot of work to do,” Kruger said.
The Sooners (5-1) are back at Lloyd Noble Center at 7 tonight to face Northwestern (La.) State (3-2).
It will be OU’s fifth game in the last nine days. It’s been a grueling stretch designed to put the Sooners in tough situations and see if they can work through them.
Outside of a loss to No. 12 Gonzaga last week, the Sooners have succeeded.
“We’re learning from each game,” Kruger said on Thursday. “Even though you wouldn’t say last night wasn’t pretty, we’re competing better for results.”
John ShinnFollow me @email@example.com