NORMAN — Oklahoma left the Lloyd Noble Center floor feeling an emotion that has become far too common on Monday. The 71-68 loss to Missouri was another tough loss in a season that’s getting tougher every day.
The loss to the fourth-ranked Tigers was OU’s third straight and dropped them to 13-10 overall and 3-8 in the Big 12 Conference.
It’s not where the Sooners expected to be at this point in the season.
“It is frustrating, I know, to the players, coaches and fans, to everyone to not get the result that we want,” OU coach Lon Kruger said. “We just have to keep getting better. We keep telling our guys afterwards, ‘good battle and good work, but we’ve got to keep doing things from a habit standpoint to have more good possessions in a ball game, enough to get over the hump against good basketball teams.’”
That hump has been like Mt. Everest to Sooners. It’s the one it has faced in just about every conference game. It’s there to be climbed with around 10 minutes to go in the game. Teams that win typically make a run around that point and take control of tight game or battle back to even after struggling earlier.
In the last two games against Iowa State and the Tigers, OU’s been trailing at that point and trying to scramble to get back into it.
Against the Cyclones, it was down by eight with 10 minutes. It tied the game a couple minutes later, but the energy it took to get the game back to even was gone.
Monday night, the Sooners only trailed by three with 10 minutes to go. But it never had the ball with a chance to tie or take the lead until the final possession.
Once again, that hump couldn’t be scaled. Once again, OU is struggling for answers why.
“Confidence wise, I think we’re right where we need to be,” point guard Sam Grooms said. “We just go to play, show it on the court.”
That hump is unrelenting. There isn’t a sherpa that can lead a team over it. Kruger knows exactly where it is, but a coach can only do so much. Players have to do the climbing and the rugged Big 12 offers no easy paths.
“In this league you are always playing good teams,” Kruger said. “I know we have some work to do. The guys will keep working at it.”
The Sooners’ next shot comes on Saturday at Texas Tech (7-16, 0-11 Big 12). It’s a game the Sooners should win. But it’s still a game where that critical point in the second half will arrive. The winner either puts the game away or makes it a see-saw contest down the stretch.
Until OU starts playing its best at that critical time, winning is going to be an uphill battle.
John Shinn 366-3536 email@example.com