The Norman Transcript

Sports

February 2, 2013

Sooners can’t fall into February funk

NORMAN — The mention of the word brought an array of expressions to the faces of Oklahoma’s Romero Osby, Steven Pledger and Cameron Clark. The trait they all shared were memories they’d like to forget, but cannot.

The word that caused all three to wince, sigh or roll their eyes was February. Most associate the month with Super Bowl parties and Valentine’s Day dinners.

The Sooners, however, have experienced few delightful moments in the month since 2010. Last season, they went 1-8 in February games, dropping the program’s record to 3-21 in February games since 2010.

That was why Pledger winced like he took a jab to the stomach when the subject came up.

“It’s been tough; it’s been like that every February since I’ve been here,” he said.

Imagine spending an entire year preparing for a season and then seeing it ruined at the same point annually.

February does that to many college basketball teams. The month isn’t the biggest of the season. March holds that distinction because of the NCAA Tournament. Jolts of energy shoot through practice gyms around the country when the calendar flips March. Just the hope of being part of March Madness brings excitement.

The month preceding the NCAA Tournament is the toughest for all involved for multiple reasons.

OU (14-5, 5-2 Big 12) faces No. 18 Kansas State (16-4, 5-2) at 5 p.m. today at Lloyd Noble Center. It’s the first of eight games the Sooners will play this month. Seven, including today’s, will be against opponents they’ve already faced.

“In the latter half of conference play, people are more familiar with each other and there aren’t many surprises,” OU coach Lon Kruger said. “It’s matter of players lining up and making plays, and finishing plays.”

The free-flowing games of November, December and even January tend to be replaced by slugfests because teams know opponents’ tendencies backward and forward. The cut through the lane that was once easy now includes an elbow in the chest. Those top scorers who thrived in January now run into defenses designed to stop them. The second, third, fourth and even fifth scoring options have to produce.

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