NORMAN — Neither Lon Kruger nor his players would speculate on Oklahoma’s NCAA Tournament chances last week. But following a loss at West Virginia on Saturday and with two home games against ranked teams this week, tournament talk has become unavoidable given OU’s recent slide.
“The guys know,” Kruger said. “You’ve gotta protect your home court much better than we have. You’ve gotta rebound the ball much better. You’ve gotta do a lot of things better than we have.”
Oklahoma (15-7, 3-6 Big 12) hosts No. 20 Iowa State at 8 p.m. Monday, 60 hours removed from dropping a key result in Morgantown, West Virginia. Kruger and his players kept circling one number on the stat sheet after the 79-71 loss: second-chance points.
West Virginia outrebounded Oklahoma 46-30, and that led to a 27-9 advantage in second-chance points.
“If we take away half those points we win the game,” junior forward Kristian Doolittle said.
The Sooners are 12-1 when they hold a rebounding edge. Oklahoma led the nation earlier this season in defensive rebounding, but the Sooners have fallen to 97th nationally and fifth in the Big 12 in rebounding margin.
When rattling off a list of things his team has to improve on, point guard Aaron Calixte began with boxing out.
“That’s a big thing for us,” Calixte said. “Going after 50/50 balls. We’ve gotta win those. I think it’s the little things really holding us back from getting where we want to be. It’s what differentiates the good teams from the OK teams.”