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Oklahoma Sports

January 30, 2013

Sooners learning tough lessons in recent conference losses

— Oklahoma’s last two road games have been as tough as it gets. The league only has two ranked teams — No. 2 Kansas and No. 18 Kansas State — and that’s where both of the Sooners’ conference losses have come.

There were lessons to be learned from both games. The main one is about having to play composed in tough environments. The Sooners weren’t blown out in either game, but they never really gave themselves a chance to win.

The biggest reason?

Too many turnovers.

OU committed 11 in its 67-54 loss to the Jayhawks Saturday. The Sooners had 16 in the Jan. 19 loss to the Wildcats.

“The thing we’re pounding away on most is the value of each

possession. You can’t give away possessions against good teams, especially on the road, and expect to win a lot of them,” OU coach Lon Kruger said. “You have to take good care of the ball and get good shots up. You have to do the same things defensively in terms of securing every rebound and every loose ball we can.

“It seemed like we had our hands on some balls Saturday that we didn’t quite get. We have to get those and focus more on each possession.”

The Sooners have averaged 13.8 turnovers a game in their five losses. They’re season average is 12.6 per game.

Learning experience: OU forward Amath M’Baye believes there was a silver lining in the Kansas loss.

“All losses hurt, but they’re a top three team in the country and we were able to go in there and hang in there and play pretty good basketball,” M’Baye said. “I think it will give us some confidence about what to expect when they come down here in a couple weeks.”

Kansas, which moved up to No. 2 in the polls Monday, visits Lloyd Noble Center on Feb. 9.

Reunion night: Next up for the Sooners is Baylor at 6 p.m. Wednesday at Ferrell Center in Waco, Texas. The game will reunite OU point guard Je’lon Hornbeak with Baylor forward Isaiah Austin.

They were high school teammates at Grace Preparatory Academy in Arlington, Texas, winning state titles in 2011 and 2012.

“We played together for four years, so this is gonna be funny,” Hornbeak said.

Both were highly recruited coming out of high school. The 7-foot-1 Austin is seen as a potential lottery pick in the NBA draft if he leaves Baylor after one season.

Hornbeak said they discussed going to the same school, but the talk ended when Austin picked Baylor.

“I started to like them, then I got tired of seeing green and gold,” Hornbeak said. “Isaiah went there, so I can stomach it a little bit, but I don’t really like it.”

Struggling from beyond the arc: OU is ninth in the Big 12 in 3-pointers attempted and made after three weeks of conference games.

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