Somewhere between OU’s seven-game losing streak and the five-game one, they are on now; you gave up on a return to the postseason.
Chances are you knew there would be a drop-off from last season’s Final Four run, but you did not think it would be this dramatic. The Sooners are 8-14 (2-8 in the Big 12) after Saturday’s 77-69 defeat at Texas Tech.
If you were looking for a way to sum up OU’s abysmal season, these 40 minutes will give you all you need to know. Sooners play hard, keep it close, and ultimately lose. Freshman Kameron McGusty and Kristian Dolittle continue to be bright spots for Lon Kruger, giving fans hope that Oklahoma can return to competing in the Big 12 next season.
What’s unfair to both of these young men (especially McGusty) is they are not only expected to produce, but they have to start showing leadership skills now.
The argument all athletes and coaches will tell you is that at the midway point, you are no longer a freshman. While this may be true, Jordan Woodard, Khadeem Lattin, Christian James, etc. were all around last year; if anybody was going to lead OU back to the NCAA tournament, it was this bunch.
The problem is glaring; the guys who have the experience in winning tight games aren’t coming through, and at times seem content to put it in the hands of McGusty.
When he is more seasoned, McGusty will probably calmly hit both free throws at Texas and find a way to finish Bedlam in the Sooners’ favor. Those are currently jobs for James and Woodard; both are having disappointing years, and the weight of this year’s expectations seems to be taking its toll on these two.
McGusty, on the other hand, continues to flourish, showing his upside on a game-by-game basis. Saturday’s stat line: 16 points, with 4 of 7 from beyond the arc.
You will never hear Kruger call his players out in the media; putting college players on blast is always an iffy proposition. If they’re not mentally tough, you lose them. It’s also not Lon’s style. There is no reason for him to change. He’s in the unfortunate position of developing young talent while trying to get his upperclassmen focused on a strong finish to the year.
Oklahoma can’t keep Jordan Woodard off the floor, and against Texas Tech he showed signs of life by pouring in 11 points. Plus with his health issues, it’s unfair to put all the Sooners’ struggles on him.
While no postseason tournament is in sight, revenge dates with Texas, Oklahoma State, and TCU are on the schedule, all winnable games, but the remaining members of the Final Four team have to show up and compete.
If they don’t, McGusty and Dolittle will be there pick up the pieces no doubt, but the result could still leave OU on the wrong side of the win column.