NORMAN — Oklahoma coach Lon Kruger gave his players four days off for Christmas break. Most went home to be with family. All, however, had the chance to get away from basketball and clear their minds.
No player needed that time away more than forward Amath M’Baye. OU’s last two games prior to the break — a 64-54 victory over Texas A&M and a 56-55 loss at home to Stephen F. Austin — have been the low point of his season. M’Baye scored just three points in those two games and took just five shots. He had four rebounds against Stephen F. Austin. The 6-foot-9 forward didn’t have a rebound against the Aggies.
“It’s been frustrating, but I had a couple days over the break to relax and think about the future. I didn’t spend much time thinking about how frustrating it was. I just think the about the future,” he said. “We still have a lot of games left to play.”
The Sooners (7-3) have a big one coming up at 7 tonight against Ohio (8-4) at Lloyd Noble Center. The Bobcats reached the Sweet 16 last season and return four of their five starters. It’s a potential victory the Sooners need to have on their postseason resume. More importantly, it’s a chance to get M’Baye’s motor running again.
M’Baye, who was the Big 12’s preseason newcomer of the year, has shown some serious talent this season. He scored 19 points and pulled down six rebounds in the Sooners’ victory over West Virginia in Orlando, Fla., on Nov. 25. Even in the loss at Arkansas on Dec. 4, M’Baye had an explosive second half.
OU coach Lon Kruger isn’t hitting the panic button.
“We just have to keep encouraging him. I think we have to restore his confidence and keep him aggressive,” he said. “… I think it will take making some shots to get that confidence going. It’ll happen. I hope it happens sooner rather than later for us.