The Norman Transcript

March 10, 2013

Sooners stunned after first-half lull

By John Shinn
The Norman Transcript

FORT WORTH, Texas — Oklahoma took a 25-minute nap at TCU on Saturday and wound up missing its chance to enter the Big 12 tournament with momentum.

Instead, it will go to Kansas City, Mo., next week staggered after Saturday’s stunning 70-67 loss to TCU at Daniel-Meyer Coliseum.

The loss dropped OU to 20-10 overall and 11-7 in the Big 12 Conference. The conference record is still good enough to get OU the No. 4 seed and it will meet No. 5 seed Iowa State on Thursday at the Sprint Center in Kansas City, Mo.

OU’s NCAA Tournament hopes are still solid, but its ambition for getting anything better than a double-digit seed took a huge hit.

“This certainly is going to hurt our seed if nothing else, perhaps,” OU coach Lon Kruger said. “There’s a lot of basketball left to be played, or at least the opportunity. We’ll try to make the most of that.”

The Horned Frogs (11-20, 2-16) were No. 239 in the Ratings Percentage Index at the start of the day. OU was No. 28.

That will change after the Sooners shot just 36.4 percent (24 for 66) from the field and went 0 for 16 from 3-point range. The last miss was Sam Grooms’ open attempt from the corner that would’ve sent the game to overtime if it had fallen. But it was a jump shot and the Sooners couldn’t make one of those to save their lives. They only scored four of their points outside of the paint and the free-throw line.

Romero Osby led the Sooners with 19 points and Andrew Fitzgerald added 13. Buddy Hield added 10. They, along with Je’lon Hornbeak and Grooms, were OU’s only sources of offense. They were able to drive to the basket or get to the free-throw line.

Then again, what created the massive deficit was a lethargic defensive effort in the first half. The Horned Frogs, who had lost eight straight prior to Saturday, torched OU from the opening tip.

“I thought we had good energy coming out of the locker room, but they hit us first and we didn’t respond as quick as we should have,” Osby said. “We shouldn’t have to respond to that. We should be ready to fight from the beginning and we just didn’t do it.”

Garlon Green led the Horned Frogs with 18 points. Connell Crossland and Charles Hill both added 13. Crossland and Hill combined for 20 of those in the first half.

It was bad enough the Sooners couldn’t get shots to go down in the first half, but they were giving up any kind of shot TCU wanted to take. Layups and wide-open 3-pointers were plentiful — reasons why TCU shot 54 percent (27 for 50).

OU trailed by double digits during 22 minutes and 8 seconds of the game and was down by 25 with 19:26 to go.

It took a frantic comeback to even make Grooms’ 3-point attempt matter.

“In the second half, we started to get stops and came together more on the defensive end and started clicking more on the offensive end,” Fitzgerald said.

They did. After TCU’s Kyan Anderson sank a 3-pointer to put the Horned Frogs up 47-22 early in the second half, OU answered with a 34-12 run over the next 10 minutes.

Hield actually had an open 3-pointer with 5 minutes left that could have tied that game. But that was OU’s problem: it always needed a 3-pointer to tie the game.

The Sooners didn’t just miss their 16 3-point attempts, they missed them badly. Half of them didn’t even catch iron.

Grooms’ 3-pointer came closer to falling than most of them, but it still clanged off the rim. His teammates huddled with him in the corner while the Horned Frogs celebrated their second ever Big 12 Conference win.

“This is frustrating,” Osby said. “At the end of the day, we have to stay together and learn from this loss. We can take a lot from this, but it was an indication that we’re not where we want to be. We have to get better and continue to work.”

The lesson was apparent Saturday: OU cannot overlook anyone and expect to win.

John Shinn

Follow me @john_shinn

jshinn@normantranscript.com

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