Physicality a must for OU next season

OU forward Ryan Spangler

OU had a great season, but coach Lon Kruger knows the team will have to get tougher to achieve even more goals.

Oklahoma made a lot of improvements in year No. 3 under Lon Kruger, but the Sooners still haven't quite gotten over that tournament hump.

In three years at OU, Kruger is 0-5 in either the Big 12 or NCAA tournament. The first year doesn't seem fair to count against Kruger as that team was still struggling to find its identity.

The argument could even be stretched out to the 2012-13 bunch because nobody envisioned a 20-win season and a berth in the big dance.

But this March was different. Except it wasn't as OU bowed out to Baylor as the No. 2 seed in the Big 12 quarterfinals and the season was closed with an upset loss to No. 12 seed North Dakota State in the round of 64.

Winning has certainly been a learning process for the Sooners, who finished second in the Big 12 conference. The key to continued success is going to be toughness, and Kruger knows it.

"I think they learned how tough it is to win games," Kruger said. "You have to prepare to do battle on each possession. You have to be consistent for 40 minutes and try to mature to the point where you have more good minutes out of the 40.

"There were some good stretches and bad stretches. We have to try to improve the number of good stretches, increase the length of the good stretches and reduce the length of the bad stretches."

In other words, OU has to get physical going forward. It can't just be forward Ryan Spangler, who will be a junior next season, it has to be a team effort.

The Sooners became fun to watch for fans this season because of their high octane offense, but they became a popular upset pick against NDSU because everybody agreed OU relied too much on its perimeter shooting and couldn't get the tough baskets when they were needed.

The team's identity changed toward the latter part of the season, and it wasn't for the better.

"We got pretty one-dimensional late," Kruger said. "We kind of leaned on the 3-pointer more it seemed like late. We stopped attacking, stopped getting the ball in the paint. We have to get in there. We have to be more balanced inside, outside. We need to be more physical, tougher to loose balls.

"We kind of became a skilled group as opposed to a blue-collar, gritty group. Look at who is playing in the tournament right now. Obviously they are skilled, but they are also very physical and tough."

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