The Oklahoma men will meet the group that prompted its recent four-game slide tonight.
The Sooners (15-9, 3-8 Big 12) are in Waco, Texas, for a “Big Monday” tilt with Baylor (15-8, 6-4) exactly two weeks after they lost to the Bears 77-47 in Norman.
Going into its first meeting with Baylor, Oklahoma had just won back-to-back games — a 70-61 road win over Oklahoma State and a 86-55 rout of Vanderbilt. But coach Lon Kruger said the team's “fight” has been missing ever since.
“The Big 12’s tough,” said senior forward Rashard Odomes after Saturday’s game. “Each night, we have to come out and fight and the past few weeks, we haven’t done that.”
The Sooners looked overwhelmed in their last outing vs. Texas Tech from the start. The team shot a combined 28 percent from the field, while Tech's Brandon Francis scorched Oklahoma's defense for 11 points in 13 minutes of first-half action.
Oklahoma couldn't claw its way out from Tech’s control, and ended up losing 66-54 on Saturday.
Junior forward Kristian Doolittle said he doesn’t feel his team’s confidence level has decreased through the program’s losing streak. Rather, he called the discipline into question.
“It’s just attention to detail that we’ve noticed a dip in,” Doolittle said following Oklahoma’s loss to Texas Tech. “Starting with me. I have to hold myself accountable and hold my teammates accountable, and it goes for all the seniors as well.
“Everyone has a voice on the team. We all listen to whoever’s talking, but in the moment it’s a little bit difficult to not have a lapse at times, but just to minimize those as much as possible.”
Odomes, who’s been one of the Sooners’ more reliable players off the bench this season, agreed.
“I think it’s what [Doolittle] said, just paying attention to detail right now,” Odomes said. “I feel like if we do that, offensively and defensively, it’ll fix most of the problems we’re having right now. We just got to take responsibility of that.”
Oklahoma won’t be alone in Waco as the only team going through adversity.
The Bears have lost back-to-back games — 84-72 at Texas and 70-63 vs. Big 12 leader Kansas State — and they might be missing two starters. Makai Mason, the team's leading scorer with 16.1 points per game this season, and King McClure, who's averaging 9.9 points a game, were unavailable in Baylor’s loss to Kansas State on Saturday.
Mason is dealing with a foot injury, while McClure is recovering from a knee injury. It’s unclear if either will suit up vs. Oklahoma on Monday.
One player that won’t see the floor is Oklahoma center Jamuni McNeace. Kruger ruled the senior out on Saturday, saying McNeace will need a full week to recover from a sore foot that’s recently hampered him in practice.
Oklahoma had a difficult time matching Texas Tech’s athleticism with McNeace in a walking boot on Saturday. But its lack of fight may have doomed them regardless.
The Sooners will need to figure something out with a road test ahead, and it simply might be playing harder than it has in two weeks, according to Doolittle.
“We just gotta find a way to get back to what was leading us to success,” he said. “Whatever that means we’ve gotta do. But until then the same thing is gonna keep happening. If we don’t play hard we’re going to lose because everyone in the Big 12 is physical and they take pride in doing the right thing, and all the little things as well.
“We’ve gotta find some things, find a way to get back to what was leading us to success.”
Oklahoma at Baylor
Time/Place: 8 p.m. | Ferrell Center; Waco, Texas
Records/Rankings: OU (15-9, 3-8 Big 12); Baylor (15-8, 6-4)
OU starters: F 21 Kristian Doolittle (6-7, Jr./9.3 ppg; 6.6 apg); F 35 Brady Manek (6-9, So./11.6 ppg, 6.5 rpg); G 0 Christian James (6-4, Sr./15.6 ppg, 7.0 rpg); G 2 Aaron Calixte (5-11, Gr./7.7 ppg, 2.5 apg); G 24 Jamal Bieniemy (6-4, Fr./4.2 ppg, 3.1 apg)
Baylor starters: G 2 Devonte Bandoo (6-3, Jr./7.2 ppg; 1.4 apg); G 12 Jared Butler (6-3, Fr./8.6 ppg; 2.7 apg); F 33 Freddie Gillespie (6-8, Jr./4.8 ppg; 3.9 rpg); F 4 Mario Kegler (6-7, So./9.1 ppg; 5.8 rpg); F 11 Mark Vital (6-5, So./6.4 ppg; 7.0 rpg)
Series: OU leads 45-16
Radio: KRXO 107.7 FM; KOKC 1520 AM