Sunday, February 12, 2012
Updated: February 13, 10:31 AM ET
Sooners losing winnable games
By Brandon Chatmon
NORMAN, Okla. -- As Oklahoma approaches the final third of its Big 12 Conference schedule, the Sooners are on the cusp of being overwhelmed by feelings of regret when looking back at this season. Since Feb. 1, OU has lost winnable games against Iowa State and Missouri that slipped away, then suffered a blowout loss to Texas Tech, which entered the game winless in Big 12 play.
Since this season was about building a foundation, not win-loss record -- evidenced by coach Lon Kruger's consistent message of getting better from day one -- it already could be considered a success. The players have spoken about the change in expectations under Kruger and the new mentality within the program, so a quality foundation is being built.
Yet, OU will look back at several games they could have won but did not. And if the Sooners struggle in their final six games, that feeling of regret will linger into the offseason.
Here are three things the Sooners can do in the final six games to ensure they won't enter the offseason with a bad taste in their mouths:
|Oklahoma guard Steven Pledger, the team's leading scorer, has not stepped up in crunch time.|
Find a go-to guy
There are multiple guys on this team who could fit the bill. Steven Pledger leads the team in scoring and makes the Sooners tough to beat whenever he is shooting the ball well. Andrew Fitzgerald has scored double digits in 18 of OU's last 19 games, Romero Osby is the most complete player on the squad and Sam Grooms can create good shots for himself and his teammates at any time.
Yet, none of those guys try to take over when the Sooners need them to.
A "go-to guy" is needed because there have been several times this season when an opponent has gone on a game-changing run against the Sooners and nobody on the team had the mentality to stop it. When a team begins to extend a lead and grab momentum, OU needs Pledger, Osby, Fitzgerald or Grooms to step up and stop the run, either with a score, defensive stop, key rebound or steal.
All too often, the Sooners have let teams go on game-changing runs that cost them the chance to win because nobody on the floor elevated their play to stop it.
Sweep its remaining home games
OU hosts Texas (Feb. 14), Oklahoma State (Feb. 22) and Texas A&M (March 3) to finish its home schedule.
There's no reason the Sooners can't win all three of those games. Kansas and Baylor are the lone teams to come into Lloyd Noble and leave with a double-digit victory so winning games against those three unranked teams is not a daunting task.
Texas comes to Norman on Valentine's Day, and that game will determine if this goal is realistic. The Sooners played arguably their worst game of the season on Saturday, so the game against the Longhorns will show their mental approach coming down the stretch.
With a win against UT, beating OSU and Texas A&M look more realistic. With a loss to UT, the disappointment of a long losing streak (four games) will continue to fester.
No more regrets
Regrets are the result of poor effort or bad decision making.
There are no regrets after giving 100 percent in every possession or taking a quality shot, even if it doesn't go in.
OU can look back at several games (Missouri, Iowa State, Texas A&M, Texas Tech) with regret because it didn't play hard every possession, lacked focus for stretches of play or tried to do too much individually.
If the Sooners can watch the game film of these last six games alongside their teammates and walk out of the room with no regrets (regardless of the final win-loss record), they will have made these last six games worthwhile and successful.
Brandon Chatmon covers University of Oklahoma sports and recruiting for SoonerNation. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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