Ask Oklahoma players how they felt after Saturday’s loss to Colorado and the descriptions ranged from stunned to flat out irate.

Losing to the conference’s last-place team has that effect.

If that sounds familiar, it should. The Sooners were saying the exact same things in early December after a home loss to Stephen F. Austin.

The question is can OU (15-8, 3-5 Big 12) use an embarrassing loss as motivation once again?

It will find out at 7 tonight when Iowa State (13-11, 3-6) visits Lloyd Noble Center.

“Everybody has to adjust their attitudes towards coming out and playing,” guard David Godbold said. “We have to start playing like the team we want to be.”

As little as three weeks ago, the Sooners were a team that knew it would struggle at times to score and would be challenged by its lack of depth.

The offensive problems are hardly a secret. The Sooners have been without center Longar Longar the last three games and forwards Blake and Taylor Griffin are playing nearly every possible minute. The center returned to the practice floor Monday and Tuesday, but was still favoring his right leg. His status for the Iowa State game remains doubtful.

OU’s three starting guards — Godbold, Tony Crocker and Austin Johnson — are mired in shooting slumps. They’re just 26-for-83 from the field over the last three games.

But the offensive problems aren’t the reason OU is at rock bottom.

“The bottom line is: We have to defend,” Taylor Griffin said. “I’m not happy with the way we’ve played defense over the last couple games. I know coach isn’t and I know most of the guys aren’t. We’ve given up a lot of easy baskets that we shouldn’t have. It’s something we have to focus on.”

When a team is struggling to get baskets and prevent them, it’s time to do a little soul searching. Two weeks ago, the Sooners looked like a pretty solid NCAA Tournament team. But that was before those three straight losses.

If the losing streak continues, those dreams of returning to March Madness become more fleeting.

That is what’s at stake for the Sooners against Iowa State.

OU coach Jeff Capel said he hasn’t had any in-depth discussions with his team about the NCAA Tournament. Unless the Sooners start winning again, those talks would only be a waste of time.

But he hasn’t harped on shooting slumps or the lack of depth.

“You can’t let yourself be defined by whether a shot goes in the basket or not,” he said. “You do that and you’re not shooting well, and it affects everything else you do. That’s where we have to improve. We have to learn to lose ourselves in the game and worry about other things and worry about the team most importantly.”

Capel was saying the same things after the loss to Stephen F. Austin and his team got the message. He’ll find out if it can work for the second time.

John Shinn

366-3536

jshinn@normantranscript.com





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Iowa State

at Oklahoma

Time/Place: 7 p.m., today, Lloyd Noble Center

Records/Rankings: Oklahoma 15-8, 3-5 Big 12/unranked; Iowa State 13-11, 3-6 Big 12/unranked.

Oklahoma starters: F 23 Blake Griffin (6-10, 243, Fr./15.0 ppg, 8.5 rpg); F 32 Taylor Griffin (6-7, 230, Jr./6.9 ppg, 4.7 rpg); G 5 Tony Crocker (6-6, 193, So./10.8 ppg, 4.2 rpg); G 15 David Godbold (6-5, 221, Sr./8.0 ppg, 4.1 rpg); G 20 Austin Johnson (6-3, 165, Jr./7.9 ppg, 2.7 rpg)

Iowa State starters: F 13 Rahshon Clark (6-6, 210, Sr./9.3 ppg, 5.8 rpg); F 21 Craig Brackins (6-10, 230, Fr./11.5 ppg, 5.1 rpg); C 33 Jiri Hubalek (6-11, 240, Sr./12.7 ppg, 7.2 rpg); G 4 Wesley Johnson (6-7, 210, So./13.7 ppg, 3.7 rpg); G 22 Bryan Petersen (6-1, 180, Jr./4.8 ppg, 2.3 rpg)

Series: Oklahoma leads 106-77

TV: KOCB34-11

Radio: KOKC-AM 1520

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