The last time Oklahoma left Lloyd Noble Center’s court, its feet were barely on the floor. Saturday’s victory over No. 5 Kansas sent the team and its fans into a state of euphoria that hasn’t been expressed in nearly two decades.
It was a wild celebration, which OU coach Lon Kruger saw no reason to restrain. His team won a big home game in front of a big crowd.
“The crowds have been great. At Big 12 games, they’ve been outstanding. The value of spontaneous celebrations, especially for the students, they’re hard to determine. They are important, that’s for sure,” he said. “It’s a step, but it’s a small step. There are a lot of steps necessary. It happens because these guys have worked hard and continue to work at it, and maintain a really good attitude about getting better. That’s what we have to continue to focus on.”
The focus was there on Saturday. The Sooners shot 44.8 percent, ending not only a two-game losing streak, but also a two-game run of games shooting under 40 percent.
Most importantly, OU matched the energy of a desperate Kansas team. The Jayhawks had also lost two straight heading into Saturday’s game and needed a win to remain alone atop the Big 12 standings.
“That’s always our goal every game, to try to be more active and make it mean more to us than it does the other team. Kansas always has energy. Coach Self does a great job. They’ve been doing that for years, having great energy,” said OU forward Romero Osby, who scored a game-high 17 points. “But we wanted to come out and set the tone ourselves, stay within our own element and play as hard as we could.”
The Sooners (15-7, 6-4 Big 12) did that for 40 minutes. Now, comes the hard part: they have to do it again at 6 p.m. today at Lloyd Noble Center against TCU (10-13, 1-9).
The Horned Frogs are in last place in the Big 12, but they did top Kansas five days ago for the only conference win. The biggest victory OU has had in several years won’t mean much if it is quickly offset by a terrible loss.
The Sooners have to prove, against TCU tonight and going forward, that it can handle success. No matter how big the victory over Kansas seemed on Saturday, all it did was keep OU tied with Iowa State, which thumped OU 84-63 last Monday, for fourth place in the Big 12 Conference.
There cannot be a letdown against the Horned Frogs.
“We want to keep winning,” OU guard Je’lon Hornbeak said. “We want to go the NCAA Tournament. This is preparing us to go to the Tournament. Every game means so much more when you take it one game at a time. It doesn’t matter who we’re playing.”
In an ideal world that would be the case. But the Sooners haven’t experienced the kind of success they’ve recently encountered in several years. Building blocks quickly turn into stumbling blocks if they’re not kept in perspective.
“It was important to bounce back and get a win against a good ball club,” Kruger said. “It was the first game of the second half of conference play. Hopefully, that gets the ball rolling again.”
OU will find out tonight.