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March 12, 2014

Sooners have all the momentum and a good tournament draw

NORMAN — There’s a confidence permeating through No. 17 Oklahoma as it prepares for the Big 12 tournament. It has won its last three games and five of its last six.

The way the Sooners (23-8, 12-6) played over the last three weeks was enough to catapult into a second-place finish and the No. 2 seed for the event at Sprint Center in Kansas City, Mo.

Then, factor how well OU played against three teams — seventh-seeded Baylor (21-10, 9-9), 10th-seeded TCU (9-21, 0-18), third-seeded Texas (22-9, 11-7) and sixth-seeded West Virginia (17-14, 9-9) — on its side of the bracket. It went a combined 7-1 in those games.

Several signs point toward the Sooners making their deepest Big 12 tournament run since winning three straight from 2001-03.

Success against the teams OU must beat to reach the tournament’s title game on Saturday seems to be the biggest. It wasn’t something players had spent much time thinking about. Guard Buddy Hield knew OU swept both Baylor and TCU. They meet Wednesday night, with the winner advancing to face OU at 6 p.m. Thursday. Beyond that, there really hasn’t been much chatter about what could follow.

“You can’t worry about that. You just go out there and play with confidence,” Hield said. “Anyone can get beat on any given night. I feel this team has taken the next step. We’re ready to show people what we’re about.”

A lofty seed for the Big 12 tournament wasn’t reached because OU throughly dominated the Big 12. It enters the tournament after a 30-point romp over the Horned Frogs. Offensively, it was as well as OU’s played all season.

It crushed Baylor 88-72 at Lloyd Noble Center back on Feb. 8 to complete a season sweep. However, the Sooners’ 66-64 win on Jan. 18 on the Bears’ home floor was decided on the last possession.

The same scenario occurred in the season sweep of Texas. OU claimed a 77-65 victory at home just 11 days ago. The game at Texas — an 88-85 win on Jan. 4 — was a last-possession game.

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