NORMAN — Playing what amounts to a must-win game in February’s second week isn’t ideal. Playing it against a team that has the same feeling only makes the situation worse.
However, if there’s an odd aroma floating around Lloyd Noble Center at 3 p.m., today, that will probably be desperation emitting from both Oklahoma (14-7, 5-4 Big 12) and No. 5 Kansas (19-3, 7-2).
The Sooners’ urgency comes from back-to-back losses to Kansas State and Iowa State. Those setbacks caused them to plummet from second in the Big 12 standings to a tie for fifth. The momentum they had after winning at Baylor on Jan. 30 would seem distant with a third straight loss.
OU coach Lon Kruger admitted play has slumped since February started. It appeared to hit rock bottom with the 83-64 loss at Iowa on Monday.
Having some extra time to prepare for Kansas hasn’t hurt.
“We needed the practice to improve in a whole lot of areas,” he said.
There was no doubt OU was going to hit some bumps in the road. The stunning aspect of today’s game is that the Jayhawks need the victory to avoid a three-game losing streak.
Their loss to Oklahoma State in Allen Fieldhouse was the surprise of the first half of the Big 12 Conference season — at least until TCU, which hadn’t won a league game, stunned the Jayhawks, 62-55, Wednesday night in Fort Worth, Texas.
Kansas coach Bill Self didn’t mince words after the upset loss.
“It was the worst Kansas team that’s been on the floor since Dr. [James] Naismith was losing to a YMCA team,” he said. “The first half was bad, and it got worse from there.”
Kruger isn’t buying the notion that the worst Kansas team in a century will be at Lloyd Noble Center today.