OU hands reeling KU its third straight loss
BY GUERIN EMIG World Sports Writer
Saturday, February 09, 2013
2/09/13 at 8:08 PM
NORMAN – When the Lloyd Noble Center horn sounded, Oklahoma freshman Buddy Hield was jumping and down at midcourt, staring at all of those Kansas seniors and just laughing.
Pretty soon, Hield was riding around the court on someone's shoulders in the mass of OU's first court-rush since... Since when exactly? Near as anyone could remember, since Feb. 20, 1995, the Big Monday night the Sooners beat No. 1 Kansas in Kelvin Sampson's first year on the job.
Here, 18 years later, OU had beaten Kansas again. This time the No. 5 Jayhawks went down 72-66. How it happened was, in a way, even more stunning.
Back in '95, it took an Ernie Abercrombie 3-pointer in the final minute for OU to pull ahead and win. Saturday afternoon in front of 10,503 fans, the Sooners took a lead on Isaiah Cousins' 3 with 14:27 left in the first half, and they never gave it up.
"Give OU credit," Bill Self said. "They controlled the game, basically, from the start."
Self didn't dump on his team like he did after last week's losses to Oklahoma State and TCU. He couldn't. The Sooners (15-7, 6-4) were just better was all, and it saw to their first win over Kansas since 2005 after 10 straight defeats.
"I'm not leaving disgusted with my team at all," Self said in the midst of KU's first three-game losing streak since '05. "We actually played better today. We just played a good team. They shot the heck out of the basketball."
Romero Osby, who went 4-of-16 in OU's 67-54 loss at Kansas Jan. 26, made 6-of-8 for a game-high 17 points. He got the better of KU center Jeff Withey, supposedly among the five best defenders in the nation.
Cameron Clark made 4-of-7 and scored 10 points. That helped OU's bench outscore KU's 23-11.
Steven Pledger wasn't always hot, but he made a 3 from the right wing after Osby's offensive rebound with four minutes left. That kept the Sooners ahead 63-59.
"I want those shots," said Pledger, who finished 6-of-14 en route to 15 points. "I have more confidence to hit those than at any point in the game."
How about Je'lon Hornbeak's confidence? OU's freshman guard had missed his only shot until taking Osby's feed on the right wing with 1:29 to play.
"I got it, sized it up and saw I had of space," Hornbeak said. "So I took it."
He buried it, and the Sooners led 66-61.
Hornbeak followed that by making 3-of-4 free throws in the final 30 seconds to keep Kansas at bay. He finished what another OU freshman started, Cousins getting his first start since mid-December and responding with five points, a rebound and an assist in the first 5½ minutes as OU jumped in front.
"We had a lot of energy from the get-go," said Osby, who added a team-high eight rebounds. "Shootaround was real active. The guys were all anxious to get out there and play."
It's not that the Jayhawks were flat coming off their shocking loss at TCU. OU was simply more energized.
It's not that a Kansas lineup including four seniors played poorly. It's just that OU's group, including starting freshmen Cousins and Hield and reserve Hornbeak, were better. They made bigger shots, more free throws. They shared the ball better and came up with one more steal.
"It's great," OU coach Lon Kruger said. "A lot of people feel good about their contributions."
It was a complete, deserved victory that left no less a player than KU senior point guard Elijah Johnson insisting his team took a step forward despite losing.
"We looked different tonight than we did at TCU, and different than at the end of Oklahoma State," he said.
What did Johnson notice about the Sooners?
"It's a good team," he said. "They talk. They're energetic. They like to play basketball. That's one thing I can say about them as a group. They like to play."
They certainly enjoyed themselves Saturday, for the two hours during the game and the 10 minutes after when they were swept up by court-rushers. The fans had been taken on quite a ride, so they returned the favor to players like Hield.
"I see that on TV all the time," Pledger said. "I always wished we could get something like that to happen."
Saturday, after 18 years, it finally did.
Oklahoma forward Andrew Fitzgerald hugs teammate Steven Pledger following a 72-66 victory over Kansas. SUE OGROCKI/AP