Oklahoma basketball: Sooners are a broken, bewildered team right now

LUBBOCK, TX - FEBRUARY 13: Trae Young /

Just when you think the Oklahoma basketball season couldn’t get much worse, up pops a Monday night, nationally televised road game against the perennial Sooner beaters, the Kansas Jayhawks.

Kansas is the only team in the Big 12 that owns a winning record over Oklahoma in basketball. And the Jayhawks’ advantage over the Sooners isn’t just a dozen games or so, it’s many times that.

Oklahoma and Kansas have played each other 213 times, dating back to 1920. The Sooners won once in the first 12 games with Kansas, and its been pretty much like that ever since then. The Jayhawks have won nearly 70 percent of the time they have faced Oklahoma on the hardwood, and that percentage goes up to 82 percent when the game is played in Lawrence, Kansas.

The Sooner players say they are still playing hard and have not lost their confidence, but the numbers say otherwise. The performance in the 77-66 loss to Texas on Saturday was perhaps the worst Oklahoma has played in two years. A year ago, the Sooners lost 20 of 31 games and they endured two seven-game losing streaks, but they were more competitive in those 20 losses than they were on Saturday.

Trae Young made only 33 percent of his shot attempts, but he still managed to put up 26 points (nine of those points coming at the free-throw line). The rest of the team scored just 40 points. Shots were falling for the Sooners, but they certainly were for Texas, which took full advantage of OU’s inability to guard them, especially on drives to the basket and shots in the paint.

After a missed three-point shot by Trae Young in the first half against Texas, you could see the look of frustration written all over his face. Like a baseball player who experiences a hitting slump, the Sooners appear to be pressing right now in an effort to turn things around. In sports, as in life, sometimes the harder you try the harder it gets.

As the losses mount, the physical problems are compounded when trust issues and loss of confidence work there way into the mind.

"“We need to do things better, make shots and get our spirits back up a little bit, said OU head coach Lon Kruger after Saturday’s disappointing loss."

That’s what you would expect the coach to say. If only it were that simple.

Kruger added, “When you’re not making shots, it changes a lot of what you can do…what you want to do.”

Oklahoma made just 4 of its first 24 shots on Saturday and finished the game shooting just 30.8 percent. Fortunately, the Sooners did not fall behind by double digits – something they have done much too often recently – until the very end of the game. When you shoot that poorly, it would be a miracle if you were able to beat anybody, or even be able to stay in the game.

The Sooners don’t shoot that poorly on a regular basis, but they are not knocking down shots anything like they did earlier in the season. And in their five-game losing streak, their shooting woes have become endemic. 

Kruger’s squad has been challenged all season defensively. Now, they are having problems putting the ball in the basket, and opponents have figured out that if you put your best defensive player on Trae Young and deny him the ball, the Sooners don’t have enough other offensive weapons to beat you.

When Young scores 26 points in a game, which he does more often than he doesn’t, there should be enough offensive contribution from the other Sooners to win games.

Fellow freshman Brady Manek has had some big games, junior Christian James has had the two best scoring performances of his career in the past two games, and sophomore Kameron McGusty has showed signs recently that he is finding his shooting stroke.

Until OU gets more balanced scoring from the other four Sooners on the floor with the freshman superman Young, the Sooners will continue to struggle, both at home and on the road.