By JOHN SHINN
NORMAN — A team’s trajectory can change very quickly. Oklahoma looked like it was shooting upward after its 74-71 victory over Baylor last Wednesday. A week later it’s working to end a two-game losing streak.
After a 52-50 loss to No. 13 Kansas State last Saturday followed by a humbling 83-64 defeat at Iowa State, the Sooners know how quickly things change.
“We were feeling pretty good after Baylor. A week later, we’re feeling pretty poorly,” OU coach Lon Kruger said. “That’s the nature of conference play. You’re gonna get a couple games where you feel good. You lose a couple, and you feel bad. We just have to keep working on playing better and doing things better.”
There wasn’t anything that couldn’t use improvement after Monday’s loss to the Cyclones. OU (14-7, 5-4) was out-shot (50.9 percent to 36.6 percent), out-defended, out-hustled and out-played in a game where it fell behind early and didn’t do much to get back into.
It was of the only games this season the Sooners’ competitive drive came into question.
“We were flat from the beginning to the end of that game,” OU guard Steven Pledger said.
Kruger doesn’t believe that will carry over into Saturday’s showdown with No. 5 Kansas (19-3, 7-2).
Nevertheless, the shooting slump can’t either. The Sooners have shot 37.5 percent (45 for 120) over the last two games. Throw is a 6-for-30 effort from 3-point range and an 18-for-31 performance from the free-throw line and it’s easy to see that a lot of OU’s recent woes stem from the offensive end.
“We’ve been working on moving the ball and making plays for each other and not worrying about who scores,” OU forward Romero Osby said. “When we’ve done that, those are the games that we’ve shot the ball best and everyone has had more confidence.”
The Sooners better find some quick. The Iowa State game marked the midway point in the conference season. At 5-4 in the league, it could be in worse shape. This, however, is the point in the year when improving teams make a push toward the postseason. Others start to fall apart.
OU knows all too well what the latter feels like. Improvements are required to experience the former.
What has to change isn’t a mystery.
“We have to move better, move the ball better, set better screens,” Kruger said. “Anytime time you’re not playing well offensively, you have to execute better. You have to do things, individually, to win battles, to get open, to finish shots, whatever the case may be. We just have to do all the little things better.”
OU was doing all those things as little as a week ago. Seven days, however, is a very long time in a college basketball season. The Sooners know that as well.