Examining OU's second-half struggles

NORMAN, Okla. -- The second half has been Oklahoma's worst enemy in Big 12 Conference play.

The Sooners have been outscored 507-418 in the second half of their 13 conference games and can look back at poor second half performances as the reason for several losses including Kansas, Texas Tech and, most recently, Texas.

OU has competed well in the first half of conference games -- the Sooners have been outscored 420-401 in the first half -- but their lack of depth and lapses in focus have doomed them to a 3-10 record in the Big 12.

Against the Longhorns on Tuesday night, Oklahoma had six turnovers in the first 10 minutes of the second half. During that span, UT outscored the Sooners 24-9, and OU never recovered.

"It seems like typically it has been a result of being careless with the ball," OU head coach Lon Kruger said of his team's poor starts to the second half. "It is not only just turnovers, but it's turnovers that result in a layups going the other way. That is a big swing right away."

OU has trailed by more than five points only twice (at Missouri and at Oklahoma State) heading into halftime in conference games. The Sooners tend to play hard and execute well in the first 20 minutes.

Then it appears the Sooners go into halftime knowing they have the opportunity to win and briefly lose the focus and intensity that they had at the start. The result is early second-half turnovers and easy buckets which lead to a substantial lead for the opponent.

"We have to avoid, No. 1, the easy buckets going the other way," Kruger said. "And then take better care of the ball and make smarter plays on our end."

Quite often OU rallies in the second half but doesn't have the depth on its roster to fully overcome large deficits. The Sooners starters play the majority of the minutes, meaning all of them are asked to maintain a high level of intensity for 25-plus minutes each game.

Yet, point guard Sam Grooms won't allow fatigue to stand as a reason for OU's second-half struggles.

"That's an excuse," Grooms said. "Everybody wants to make it [an excuse] for us; I'm not going to accept it. It's not."

Even if it is not an excuse, it is a factor. But, as Grooms says, it should not be a defining factor.

"When you're out on the court, even if you're a little bit tired, you want to win, so that should take over and knock the fatigue out of the way," he said. "You should be able to play through it, get extra possessions and actually come out and do something. Fatigue is not the (reason) and I don't think that's where we should go with that."

Whatever the reason, OU needs to get it solved. And quickly.

Brandon Chatmon covers University of Oklahoma sports and recruiting for SoonerNation. He can be reached at bchatmonespn@gmail.com.

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