OU loses dogfight with Cats
BY GUERIN EMIG World Sports Writer
Sunday, February 03, 2013
2/03/13 at 6:53 AM
NORMAN - A well-wisher congratulated Lon Kruger on a "close game" Saturday evening in a Lloyd Noble Center hallway.
"Close," Kruger said with a smile, "but not good."
No, it really wasn't.
Oklahoma played some of its toughest defense of the season in falling to No. 18 Kansas State, 52-50. The Sooners also showed some fight, battling from eight points down in the final two minutes to tie the score on Sam Grooms' layup with 13 seconds left.
But after K-State point guard Angel Rodriguez made two free throws eight seconds later, and Grooms airballed a long 3-pointer at the buzzer, OU was faced with a sobering bottom line.
"Today was a reminder that we've got a significant ways to go," Kruger said.
It was harder to see that after the Sooners won at Baylor last Wednesday. They played crisply and confidently and pulled out their most important victory of the season. That left them with a chance to take sole possession of second place in the Big 12 Conference Saturday, just a game behind Kansas.
But the difference in opponents was stark. K-State isn't as talented as Baylor, but it plays so much tougher. The Wildcats came in angry that OU had swept them a year ago. Then, after leading scorer Rodney McGruder was more or less removed from the game with first-half foul trouble, they played even angrier.
The Sooners had plenty of room to flow at Baylor. On Saturday, they could barely breathe offensively, much less run an effective set.
"They're a really physical team," OU's Romero Osby said of K-State. "They tried to bump us off our cuts. They tried not to let us screen, particularly me and Amath (M'Baye). They tried to be physical with our guards and go over our screens and ride up into them."
They didn't just try, they did. The result was a 10-minute, 41-second stretch of basketball in which the Sooners failed to score a point.
K-State came out of it ahead 30-25 with 15:38 remaining in the game. OU cut it to 33-32, only to have the Wildcats rebuild to 40-32. The Cats weren't doing much offensively either - they shot 9-of-28 in the second half and placed just two scorers (Will Spradling and Martavious Irving) in double figures - but the margin held because the Sooners were no match for their defenders.
Not until it was too late, that is.
K-State led 50-42 with 1:58 to play, when Osby drove for a three-point play. Cameron Clark worked a backcourt steal, and Grooms swished an open 3 to make it 50-48 with 54 seconds left. Then Osby rebounded Rodriguez's miss, setting up Grooms' end-to-end drive and layup with 13 seconds to go.
K-State played in directly to Rodriguez. He blew past Grooms and was fouled by M'Baye with 5.6 seconds left. The 78-percent foul shooter made both to give the Cats the lead.
M'Baye inbounded to Osby, who held the ball a split second before Grooms took it. The point guard rushed into the frontcourt and hoisted a guarded 3 near the OU bench that flew under the rim before catching the bottom of the net.
So much for second place. That belonged to K-State, which sits at 17-4 overall and 6-2 in Big 12 play.
So much for the momentum created by winning at Baylor. The Sooners (14-6, 5-3) didn't play nearly well enough to sustain it, shooting 39 percent from the floor, going 9-of-14 from the line and posting 14 turnovers versus eight assists.
They said they'd learn from Saturday afterward, and claimed they hadn't given back the Baylor win.
"Kansas State is a good team," Grooms said. "We're making progress, but this shows we've still got work to do to be a top-25 team."
More to the point of the day's frustration, M'Baye took to Twitter with one word, repeated five times for effect: "Dammit."
Guerin Emig 918-581-8355
Oklahoma's Romero Osby battles with Kansas State's Will Spradling during Saturday's game in Norman. NATE BILLINGS/The Oklahoman