OU faces a tough chore at Arkansas
BY GUERIN EMIG World Sports Writer
Tuesday, December 04, 2012
12/04/12 at 5:13 AM
NORMAN - It seems a little early to declare the NCAA Tournament hopes of Oklahoma or Arkansas either dead or alive.
"If we win, that doesn't mean we're in the tournament. If we lose, it doesn't mean we're not by any means," coach Lon Kruger said ahead of Tuesday's 6 p.m. game between his 6-1 Sooners and the 3-3 Razorbacks in Fayetteville, Ark. "But you're always trying to win these types of games against schools from other BCS-type conferences."
Throw "BCS" into a statement, whether it is related to football or basketball, you automatically think postseason. The Sooners have been thinking postseason since they started practice.
And so while this is no make-or-break game, the thought process in Norman is clear.
"This is the exact type of game that will help us with our resume," said OU forward Andrew Fitzgerald. "It will help us make a point that we're a good team this year, a very good team."
"Most definitely," agreed Steven Pledger, another OU senior who hasn't experienced a postseason. "It's a big game to get people to start talking about us."
Of course, it's only a big game if you win it. And for the Sooners to prevail, they must be a better team than the one that barely defeated Texas-Arlington, ORU and Northwestern State.
That team shouldn't expect to win in Bud Walton Arena on Tuesday night. That team shouldn't expect to hear its name called Selection Sunday.
"We've been a little frantic," Kruger said. "Even on shots that have been open, we haven't had the rhythm that we want. They're open shots we want the guys taking. I don't think our selection has been bad. It's our rhythm and our comfort. We've got to keep working on that."
That will be paramount Tuesday. Arkansas will be the most athletic team OU has faced this season, and with the biggest sense of urgency, given a three-game losing streak.
The Razorbacks have gone down to No. 6 Syracuse, Wisconsin and Arizona State over the past 11 days. So it's a bit of a deceptive skid.
The Hogs still have guard B.J. Young, with a 21.4-point average and coming off a 25-point effort against Syracuse last Friday. They have forward Marshawn Powell, a preseason All-SEC pick back from a torn ACL.
It is a dangerous bunch, a familiar-looking Mike Anderson-coached team with a plus-8 turnover margin which ranks fifth in the nation.
"The last time I played against Mike, he was still coaching at Missouri," said Amath M'Baye, the Sooners' transfer from Wyoming. "It was my sophomore year at Wyoming, and he was pressing everywhere. They had athletes across the board. That's exactly what they're going to be doing this time."
OU handled the trapping reasonably well last December in Norman, setting up a 78-63 victory in which the Sooners shot 52 percent. OU hasn't shot 50 percent yet this season.
It is a big opportunity, but only if OU takes advantage.
"Coach gives us the tools to win. All we've got to do is execute, make sure we don't have any mental lapses. Stay the course, do our job and everything is going to be fine."
Oklahoma at Arkansas
*assists per game
OU at Arkansas
6 p.m. Tuesday
Bud Walton Arena, Fayetteville, Ark.
Radio: KTBZ am1430 (OU feed); KCFO am970 (Arkansas feed)
Original Print Headline: OU faces a tough chore at Arkansas
Guerin Emig 918-581-8355
Oklahoma's Steven Pledger puts up a shot last week against ORU at the Mabee Center. MATT BARNARD / Tulsa World