Oklahoma Basketball: Last Five Minutes Defining Factor in Sooners’ Season

Feb 27, 2017; Lawrence, KS, USA; Kansas Jayhawks guard Frank Mason III (0) shoots as Oklahoma Sooners forward Khadeem Lattin (12) defends during the second half at Allen Fieldhouse. Kansas won 73-63. Mandatory Credit: Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports
Feb 27, 2017; Lawrence, KS, USA; Kansas Jayhawks guard Frank Mason III (0) shoots as Oklahoma Sooners forward Khadeem Lattin (12) defends during the second half at Allen Fieldhouse. Kansas won 73-63. Mandatory Credit: Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports /
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Much has been made of the youth and inexperience of Lon Kruger’s Oklahoma basketball squad this season.

Truth be told, though, had the Sooners’ commanded the final five minutes in more than half of the games they lost, we’d be looking at a much different picture right now.

Too many times to count this season, Oklahoma has been in or close to the lead at the critical five- or six-minute mark in the second half, only to come unraveled on both ends of the court and hand the game to its opponents.

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Their last game out, at Kansas, as difficult a place to play as their is in college basketball and against arguably the best team in the country right now, the Sooners were up by a dozen with 10 minutes remaining in the contest. Over the next five minutes, however, the Jayhawks went on one of their patented runs, outscoring Oklahoma 22-4 to erase the deficit and leave the Sooners shaking their heads and looking up at a six-point deficit.

Another classic late-game collapse was on display in the earlier game this season with the upstart Horned Frogs of TCU. Leading 54-48 with just over six minutes to go, the Sooners yielded a 12-0 run over the next two minutes and scored just three points the remainder of the game in suffering a 60-57 setback.

These two examples serve as an excellent representation of how the 2016-17 season has gone for the OU men’s team. Of Oklahoma’s 19 losses going into its regular-season finale against TCU, 11 have been by six points or less, and four have been by three or fewer points.

The good news is that as this Oklahoma team gets more experience and gains more confidence in its ability to hold its own late in tight games, those three- and four-point defeats are going to quickly turn into W’s for a school that is much more accustomed to winning basketball seasons than losing ones.