OU Basketball

OU basketball: For No. 23 Oklahoma, getting back on track starts with Texas

Oklahoma coach Lon Kruger yells out instructions to his players during the second half in an NCAA college basketball game against Arkansas at the Phil Knight Invitational tournament, in Portland, Ore., Thursday Nov. 23, 2017. (AP Photo/Troy Wayrynen)
OU basketball: For No. 23 Oklahoma, getting back on track starts with Texas

On Jan. 15, it was smooth sailing for the Sooners after the Associated Press’ college basketball voters raised them all the way up to No. 4. At 14-2, now No. 23 Oklahoma looked to be right back in the mix of as one of college basketball’s best teams. They had rolled in five ranked wins over an eight game span, including four over top 10 ranked opponents, but are now on a stretch of seven losses in nine games.

Oklahoma has been close to breaking through, as six of the seven losses in this stretch have been very competitive until the end. The Red River Rivalry always has high stakes, but getting back on track starts with the Longhorns inside the Lloyd Noble Center on Saturday.

“It would be great, we haven’t had (a win) in a long time. It hasn’t been that long but it feels like a long time,” sophomore guard Kameron McGusty said. “We got accustomed to winning and that losing has been bothering us. So, I think we’ve got our fight back and we’re looking forward to Saturday.”

“This game is very important for both teams. they just got off a tough loss at home to Baylor,” freshman guard Trae Young said. “So… and… we haven’t won a game in a minute. We got to get this game, and get this thing rolling again.”

Despite the tough stretch, the Sooners have been getting more production over the last few games from places other than Trae Young. Christian James has set his career high in scoring in back-to-back games. Jamuni McNeace and Rashard Odomes have scored in double-figures on more than one occasion.

However, no recent outburst in scoring could have been bigger than Kameron McGusty’s on Tuesday night. The sophomore led Oklahoma in scoring during conference play a year ago as a freshman, and looked to be back in that rhythm after scoring in double-digits in six straight games in December and early January. He had not reached that mark in over a month, but that changed with a 13-point performance against Texas Tech on Tuesday.

“Yeah, definitely,” McGusty said about the chances of building on Tuesday night. “Like I said, I look forward to building on it and it’s a confidence booster coming into Saturday so hopefully – not hopefully, I know I’ll be able to put it together and like I said, do what I can to help the team win.”

McGusty’s ability to score off the bench takes some of the scoring load off of Trae Young and Christian James. He was a big part of Oklahoma’s win against Wichita State and TCU earlier in the season. Tuesday’s night performance was not unordinary, and the Sooners hope it can continue.

“Hopefully a lot. He played great, made big shots,” Oklahoma head coach Lon Kruger said. “Which he’s done during his career, just hasn’t been recently. So everyone is excited for Kam, and great to see that, and hope to see it to continue.”

With Oklahoma getting production from those around their superstar freshman, the Sooners have been missing the flair and jaw-dropping plays that Trae Young brings the table. Texas Tech was able to force him into his worst shooting performance of the season on Tuesday, but Young is feeling good about things heading into their matchup against Texas.

“Like I said, I watched film that night I got back and I watch film each day,” Young said. “My shots are all on line. Not all, but most of my shots were on line. I took a few deep ones that I probably shouldn’t have…

“But no, I feel good. I feel good. I’m just ready for our next opponent in Texas coming in, hopefully I can get it going…I think I will get it going.”

In the comfort of home, the Sooners can end their four-game losing streak. A season-defining matchup against the Longhorns matchup awaits them, and Oklahoma knows exactly what it’s going to take to come out of it alive.

“Oh man, it’s going to be a fight. We know that coming into every Big 12 game,” Kameron McGusty said. “And I think that we’ve been taking blows and not hitting back, so we’re going to come Saturday and come out with the first blow and try to have them on their heels going into halftime instead of us…

“I think that’s one of the things we’ve been missing these last couple of games so hopefully we can come out strong.”

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