The Norman Transcript

Sports

January 25, 2014

Cousins’ improvement big key to team’s success

NORMAN — You did not have to be a World Series of Poker champion to read what Oklahoma guard Isaiah Cousins was going through during his last trip to Lubbock, Texas.

The slumped shoulders and sigh that came over his face after Texas Tech’s Josh Gray’s steal and layup with about 10 minutes left in the game was easy to read.

OU coach Lon Kruger yanked the then-freshman point guard out of the game and went with senior Sam Grooms the rest of the season.

If you’re looking for a low point in Cousins’ basketball career, going scoreless and committing four turnovers against one assist in just 10 minutes Feb. 20, 2013, at United Spirit Arena was it.

“It was a tough game because I didn’t play really good and probably my worst game of the year,” Cousins admitted.

Building him back up was a project his teammates undertook immediately. They felt they had to. Cousins is unique on OU’s roster. The New York native is a long way from home. Family and friends are a phone call away. But that shoulder to lean on after a tough performance isn’t there. Teammates have to serve that purpose.

It greatly helped that OU easily won the game, 86-71. But getting Cousins’ confidence back up seemed more important.

“He just lost a little focus in that game and he lost a little fight in the game,” OU guard Je’lon Hornbeak said. “Me and (OU guard Buddy Hield) talked to him. We told him no matter what, we were here for him and we were still his brothers and he was gonna get through it. Don’t quit on us.”

Cousins clearly didn’t.

Eleven months have passed since OU’s last visit to United Spirit Arena. Once again, Cousins is in the starting lineup. Only this time, he comes averaging 10.6 points a game and 4.4 rebounds an outing. The 25th-ranked Sooners (15-4, 4-2 Big 12) are a much-improved team and expect to show it when they face the Red Raiders (10-9, 2-4) at 3 p.m. today.

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