Men's Basketball: Oklahoma
BY GUERIN EMIG World Sports Writer
Monday, February 04, 2013
2/04/13 at 9:03 AM
14-6 overall, 5-3 Big 12
with Andrew Fitzgerald
Weight: 238 pounds
It has been an adjustment for Fitzgerald, a senior with 74 career starts heading into this season. He was a focal point in the Oklahoma offense the past two years, but the arrival of freshmen and transfers changed the dynamic. Now, Fitzgerald contributes in a less prominent role. He has scored in double figures just twice in OU's 20 games. He has to help in spurts, and his eight-point effort at Baylor last Wednesday was an example of that.
How did it feel to come in and make shots?
It felt really good. It's been a long season for me. Just to get in and contribute like that was really good. Hopefully I can continue going like that the rest of the season.
Has the reduction in playing time affected your shot any?
It hasn't been where it was. I've been coming in to keep working at it, and it's starting to flow now.
What's been your adjustment like?
I have more of a defensive mindset now. I really want to focus on defense to help us win games. I think I'm a way better defensive player now than I was my first three years here. For example, the shot-clock violation at Baylor, I stayed strong sticking Pierre Jackson. I had him contained for a period of time. I was really pumped up about that.
The Sooners went 1-1 for the third consecutive week, but this split felt much different from the first two. OU went on the road to defeat Baylor last Wednesday, 74-71, opening the door to a potential 2-0 week. But the Sooners came home and fell to Kansas State on Saturday, 52-50. They shot 53 percent against the Bears, 39 percent against the Wildcats. They went from two 20-point scorers in Waco to one player in double digits (Romero Osby) in Norman.
The week ahead
Monday: at Iowa State, 6 p.m.
Saturday: vs. Kansas, 3 p.m.
OU will take a split this week. The Cyclones are 15-6 overall and 5-3 in the Big 12. They nearly won at Oklahoma State and Kansas earlier this season, and are coming off a 79-71 victory over Baylor. The Jayhawks hold their usual spot atop the league despite losing to OSU on Saturday. They should be able to fix their problems at winless-in-conference TCU come midweek, before traveling to Norman for Saturday's matchup.
The big picture
The Sooners have been plagued by offensive inconsistency most of this season. They seemed to finally catch a groove at Baylor, when they moved the ball crisply and shot it even better. Then hard-nosed, grind-it-out Kansas State came to Norman. The Sooners didn't make many shots, turned the ball over 14 times and at one point went nearly 11 minutes without scoring.
Starting guards Steven Pledger, Buddy Hield and Je'lon Hornbeak shot a combined 2-for-12 against K-State, and 0-for-7 from 3-point range. Pledger isn't the same scorer he was the past two years. Hield has made big plays with the ball in his hands but is unreliable as an outside shooter. Hornbeak has made a total of eight field goals in eight conference games.
After escaping Norman with a win, Kansas State coach Bruce Weber raved about OU's defensive improvement. He credited the Sooners for his team's 9-of-28 second-half shooting. That's a good, important sign for a team still struggling to find consistent offense. It might just be defense that keeps OU's NCAA Tournament hopes afloat, although it would be a good idea for the guards to start hitting shots.
OU's Je'lon Hornbeak battles for a rebound with Kansas State's Rodney McGruder on Saturday. Hornbeak has made a total of eight field goals in eight conference games. NATE BILLINGS / The Oklahoman