OU, Iowa State meet after disappointing losses for both
BY GUERIN EMIG World Sports Writer
Saturday, March 02, 2013
3/02/13 at 7:01 AM
NORMAN - Wednesday's game at Texas was the 841st in Lon Kruger's 27 years as a college basketball coach. After Oklahoma coughed up a 22-point lead in the final eight minutes of regulation and then lost in overtime, he called it the "most disappointing" defeat of his career.
Iowa State fell in overtime earlier this week as well. The aftermath of the Cyclones' game Monday night included death threats to Kansas guard Elijah Johnson, a confrontational fan angry with Jayhawks coach Bill Self, and a Big 12 Conference statement admitting referee errors, errors which just happened to set up KU's victory.
"I slept only about an hour," Iowa State coach Fred Hoiberg told the Des Moines Register. "I'm just heartbroken for the guys."
Now the Cyclones come to Norman for Saturday's 12:45 p.m. game against equally heartbroken OU. There are actual basketball matchups worth considering, ISU's shooters vs. the Sooners' switching man-to-man perimeter defense foremost.
Ultimately, though, this is a mind game.
"Two teams feeling the same emotions after their games for sure," Kruger said. "Iowa State has had a little longer to get over theirs, or dwell on it, whatever they do with it, than we have. Still, both were disappointing losses."
They didn't just cost the two teams losses on their records. They smudged their NCAA Tournament resumes.
Here are two teams with 9-6 conference records. OU has the superior RPI (27 to ISU's 54) but the 19-9 Cyclones have one more victory than the 18-9 Sooners.
Saturday's winner is in good shape for a fourth-place Big 12 finish. That should look a whole lot better to the NCAA selection committee than sixth place, which is where the loser could conceivably wind up.
"Although we try not to talk about (the tournament) or look too far ahead, that's wishful thinking here," OU guard Sam Grooms said. "Both teams have a chance to play in postseason. There's a lot riding on the line."
There is pride in the Sooners' case.
They're the ones at home. They're the ones putting on a Senior Day with the families of Grooms, Romero Osby, Steven Pledger, Andrew Fitzgerald and Casey Arent in town for a ceremony.
They're the ones who Iowa State toyed with in an 83-64 cakewalk three weeks ago. The Sooners came out flat and were flattened.
"If we don't come out ready to play it will be another 20-point loss," Grooms predicted.
Given their collapse at Texas, will they be ready to play?
"It was only about an hour flight home, but it felt a lot longer," Osby said. "You were just ... You were just frustrated. You gave up such a great opportunity to solidify yourself as a premier team in the league. A 22-point lead and you give that up on the road? It comes back on you."
It is a mental challenge similar to the one the Sooners faced after Oklahoma State rallied to top them in overtime Feb. 16. OU regrouped and won at Texas Tech four days later.
Saturday's difference is that Iowa State is much better than Tech. The first six players in Hoiberg's rotation can dribble, drive and shoot the 3. They work in concert to produce the nation's fourth-best offense at 80 points per game.
Also, the Sooners didn't spit up a 22-point lead in Stillwater. They didn't implode in a series of backcourt turnovers, bad shots and bad fouls. There was no shame in losing that lead at OSU, particularly the way Marcus Smart and Le'Bryan Nash played.
What happened Wednesday night, similar to what happened to Iowa State on Big Monday, was almost too much to comprehend.
Wednesday afternoon, just hours before OU-Texas tipped off, Hoiberg went on a national radio show and sounded confident his players would respond their next time out in Norman. He knew there wasn't really a choice, given the stakes and the time of year.
Not 24 hours later, the Sooners found themselves backed into the same corner.
"That one will probably linger as much as any I've had," Kruger said. "Just the nature of 32 minutes of good basketball, it being at Texas, not handling it late, we're late conference play ... All of those things combined have to make it among the most disappointing and difficult to deal with."
All of those things make Saturday a fascinating matchup between two teams desperate to prove something, whether that be to their fans, the selection committee or themselves.
"Yeah, it's gonna be crazy in here," Grooms said. "It's gonna be wild. Both teams are going to be playing like their lives depend on it."
COLLEGE BASKETBALL: OU VS. IOWA STATE
12:45 p.m. Saturday • Lloyd Noble Center, Norman • TV: KMYT-10/41 • Radio: KTBZ am1430
Original Print Headline: Overcoming obstacles
Guerin Emig 918-581-8355
Iowa State coach Fred Hoiberg (left) and OU coach Lon Kruger both had disappointing losses to Kansas and Texas, respectively, earlier this week. Hoiberg photo by ERIC GAY/AP, Kruger photo by KT KING/For the Tulsa World; Tulsa World photo illustration