Men's Basketball: Oklahoma
BY GUERIN EMIG World Sports Writer
Monday, February 18, 2013
2/18/13 at 5:50 AM
16-8 overall, 7-5 Big 12
with Je'lon Hornbeak
Weight: 180 pounds
Hometown: Arlington, Texas
Hornbeak was a steady contributor but not much of a scorer over the first three months of the season. Then came Oklahoma's upset of Kansas on Feb. 9. Hornbeak rang up seven straight Sooner points, including a big 3-pointer, over the final 1:30 to help protect the lead. He followed that by scoring nine points in OU's blowout of TCU last Monday, then made a trio of 3s in the Sooners' near-miss at Oklahoma State on Saturday afternoon. That's a positive sign for an OU team that will be without starting guard Buddy Hield the rest of the regular season.
Do you feel like you have to do more with Hield sidelined?
I can't really think about doing more. I don't want to get ahead of myself at all. I just want to keep playing aggressively, keep making plays on offense and defense. Whatever comes, take advantage of it. Take a shot, set a screen, make a backdoor cut, cut to get somebody open, that kind of thing.
Has it been a tough transition from high school to college ball?
It's hasn't been too hard. You just have to slow down. You get in a lot of trouble when you start to play fast or play too fast. You can play fast, but you've got to play under control. Sometimes you play too fast and out of control. That's when mistakes tend to happen.
What is the most important thing you have learned?
You can control how hard you play. You can't always control if your shot goes in or you mishandle the ball and turn it over. But you can control the defensive end. That's what I'm really starting to pick up. If I'm mad that my shot's not going in, I can set a screen. I can make that extra pass. I can always pick it up on defense, get my hand on the ball, dive on the floor, box out, just little things like that.
OU's fifth consecutive 1-1 split was the most agonizing yet. The Sooners took care of business last Monday night with a 75-48 drubbing of TCU. Then they went to Oklahoma State on Saturday and played much better. They got big games from several players and opened an 11-point second-half lead. They simply couldn't close the deal in regulation. The Cowboys then owned the final minute of overtime and escaped victorious, 84-79.
The week ahead
Wednesday: at Texas Tech, 6 p.m.
Saturday: vs. Baylor, 4 p.m.
The opportunity is there for the Sooners' first 2-0 week since the start of Big 12 Conference play. It's also conceivable OU could go 0-2. Texas Tech fought the Sooners throughout the Jan. 16 game in Norman before fading late. That's typical of a Red Raiders team that shouldn't be considered by their 2-10 league record. Baylor has lost four of six games but arguably owns the most talent in the conference. Point guard Pierre Jackson, sharpshooter Brady Heslip and a rotation of powerful young forwards should make things difficult for the Sooners this weekend.
The big picture
That time again
With just three weeks left in the regular season, it's worth asking how the Sooners feel about their NCAA chances. Lon Kruger sidestepped the question after Saturday's Bedlam loss. However, a look at his team's record, remaining schedule and RPI (18 as of Sunday) reveals the Sooners are on track. If they win the games they should, including the two this week, between now and the conference tournament, they'll be fine.
They miss their Buddy
The worst thing that happened to OU all week wasn't that poor possession at the end of regulation in Stillwater, or Sam Grooms' turnover late in overtime. It was the broken foot Hield suffered against TCU. The Sooners must finish the season without their best on-ball defender and most energetic player. OSU turned it over just five times Saturday. You can't help but wonder if Hield might have forced a few more.
The good stuff
Kruger and his players insisted they took a lot of positives out of Bedlam, despite the final score. They were right to do so. Steven Pledger had an explosive stretch of outside shooting. Romero Osby asserted himself more than he has since OU's win over Texas on Jan. 21. And Grooms had the best game of his career, despite the late turnover.
OU's Sam Grooms tries to get around OSU's Brian Williams during Saturday's game in Stillwater. KT KING / For the Tulsa World