After winning 30 straight against the Baylor Bears, the Sooners appear to have lost their…
One Step Forward and Two Steps Back
Even when they follow the script these days the Sooners don't stack up.
The game plan against Baylor was to challenge the bigs that have made the Bears a certainty to get into the NCAA Tournament.
"The big emphasis," explained forward Ryan Wright, "was to just go after them. One of the biggest ways you can take those guys out of the game is to go at them. Unfortunately, we didn't get the win. But that was our offensive plan."
Despite career scoring bests from Wright (14 points) and burly 6-9 forward Tiny Gallon (23), the Sooners suffered their sixth straight defeat and fell to 13-15 overall and 4-10 in the Big 12.
Their unexpected contributions were offset by the inability of the Oklahoma backcourt to produce. Playing without leading scorer Willie Warren, who is bothered by an ankle injury, the Sooners went cold from outside.
With Oklahoma as thin as it is, and struggling to match up underneath against some teams, any shortcomings can contribute to defeats. The fine line the Sooners are treading has frayed to a point they won't reach the postseason. Getting Warren back will help, though the sophomore is out indefinitely and when asked if the Big 12 Tournament was a possibility, coach Jeff Capel could only say, "Maybe."
--G Willie Warren was once considered among the top five prospects on the NBA mock draft boards but has now fallen to a low first-round pick as injuries and ineffectiveness have hurt his stock. He has missed six Big 12 games, mostly while dealing with a recurring ankle injury he aggravated again in a Feb. 17 loss at Colorado. Warren is averaging 16.3 points, up two from last season, but the sophomore's shooting percentages have dipped.
-More than 60 former Sooners were recognized at halftime of the Feb. 27 loss against Baylor as part of an alumni reunion Oklahoma annually conducts. Among those who returned was Ken Pryor, who hit the game-winning shot to beat Texas and propel Oklahoma into the 1947 national championship game.
ON THE SPOT: Although Baylor entered the Feb. 27 matchup with the best rebounding margin in the Big 12, Oklahoma managed a 38-30 advantage on the boards behind the strength of F Tiny Gallon, who snagged 15 rebounds. The McDonald's All-American has been considered a disappointment as a freshman, but any late-season surge by Gallon will be encouraging for next season.
QUOTE TO NOTE: "It's amazing when you look at our percentages shooting (against Baylor) that we were actually in the game and had a chance to win late." -- Oklahoma coach Jeff Capel.
STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
SEASON RECAP: Injuries have been constant for Oklahoma, which has missed its leading scorer, G Willie Warren, in six Big 12 games. A Feb. 27 loss against Baylor was the third straight game Warren has missed with an ankle injury. The setbacks have been tough on the Sooners. Their thin bench has been unable to keep pace in the rugged Big 12, and a six-game losing streak is beginning to adversely affect confidence, especially when shots do not fall.
PLAYER ROTATION: Usual Starters -- F Andrew Fitzgerald, F Tiny Gallon, G Tony Crocker, G Willie Warren, G Tommy Mason-Griffin. Key Subs -- F Ryan Wright, G Steven Pledger, G Cade Davis.
Kansas State 83, Oklahoma 68.
Kansas 81, Oklahoma 68.
Baylor 70, Oklahoma 63.
at Texas, Monday, March 1.
vs. Texas A&M, Saturday, March 6.
--G Willie Warren has missed three straight games with a nagging ankle injury. Oklahoma coach Jeff Capel is hopeful the Sooners' leading scorer will be available for the Big 12 Tournament.
--F Andrew Fitzgerald turned his ankle late in the loss against Baylor. His status for the Texas game was uncertain.
--F Tiny Gallon established career bests for points (23) and rebounds (15) in the Baylor loss. He was 11-for-17 from the field and made almost half of the Sooners' field goals as they went 23-for-67 (.343).
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