By JOHN SHINN
NORMAN — Even after playing 31 grueling minutes Monday night, Oklahoma forward Romero Osby ran down to the free-throw line after being fouled. It wasn’t the two foul shots he eventually made to cap his 29-point effort against Texas that caused him to hurry.
He wanted to be first one down there, and he wanted his teammates and the Longhorns to see it.
It was all psychological, but it’s one of the reasons the Sooners’ 73-67 victory over Texas was another game worth noting in what’s turning into a renaissance season for OU basketball.
It’s the rare case where the best player happens to be the team leader, too.
Junior forward Amath M’Baye, who scored 15 points against Texas and is now averaging 10.5 points in game in Big 12 play, watches Osby like a hawk. Picking up new moves isn’t the reason the junior college transfer, who is originally from France, studies his teammate. It’s the mannerisms that make Osby the player on the floor who everyone looks to.
“I see him in practice every day, and he is one of the most humble post players I have every played with in Europe or here. He is a workhorse, and he is just amazing,” M’Baye said. “It is always easier to work next to someone like that because all of the attention is on him and they tend to forget you a little bit. He is a role model for me. He is a great senior and a great leader. The fact that he was able to get so many points and so many rebounds is just a model of how hard you should play and how well you can play.”
All good teams have a player like Osby. They are crafty veterans who understand the ups and downs of the season and of games. The leadership they provide is invaluable. Osby provides it along with scoring, rebounding and defense.
The Sooners (13-4, 4-1 Big 12) do have seven players in their 10-man rotation that are juniors and seniors. When it comes to winning, however, the group is still inexperienced.
One of the reasons is that OU lacked a player of Osby’s imposing stature both as a player and a presence.
It’s rubbed off on his class peers as well as freshmen guards Buddy Hield, Je’lon Hornbeak and Isaiah Cousins.
“Ro’s leadership has been invaluable to the entire group, but especially the young guys. Again, it is not just the young guys that he sets the bar for. He sets it for everyone,” OU coach Lon Kruger said. “I think our guys, like Amath said, they appreciate the fact that he is very genuine and is doing it for all the right reasons and is all about the team. No one puts more time in or works harder or is more consistent in practice than he is. That is what you want out of your leading scorer and a guy that everyone else is kind of rallying around.”
Osby showed how powerful that can be in the win over the Longhorns.