They all count. That’s the thing.
Who can remember the last time the Jayhawks lost three straight games? Who can remember the best team in the Big 12 taking a swan dive like the Jayhawks have taken?
It’s beside the point.
Because they all count.
Oklahoma beat Kansas 72-66 Saturday afternoon at Lloyd Noble Center.
After three straight losing Sooner seasons, it’s the program’s biggest win since Blake Griffin was filling the joint in 2009, leading OU to a 13-3 conference mark and an Elite Eight appearance, the last time OU even sniffed the postseason.
The first half woke the echoes of Billy Tubbs’ program past, the two teams on a 200-point-between-them pace almost to the second media timeout.
The second half offered the OU-KU series of Kelvin Sampson and Roy Williams, both teams doing anything to buy a bucket and frequently failing.
Just maybe it was the stuff that will mark Lon Kruger’s Sooner tenure. The kinds of things that, years down the line, after another narrow victory over another top-five foe, folks will stop and think to themselves, You know, it all began that February Saturday afternoon against the Jayhawks.
Down the stretch, OU didn’t turn it over, produced sound offensive possessions on one end and strong defensive possessions on the other, creating the kind of calm environment that allowed a freshman reserve, Je’Lon Hornbeak, to score seven straight points that put the game away.
The Jayhawks made it a two-point game, 63-61, before the youngster from Arlington, Texas, knocked down a 3 with 1:18 remaining and followed by hitting front ends of back-to-back one-and-ones before, fouled again, making both tosses, giving OU a 70-66 edge with 16 tics remaining. When Elijah Johnson missed on the other end, it was really over.
The day Kruger was hired and OU athletic director Joe Castiglione organized a rally in his honor at McCasland Field House, Joe C. said an utterly amazing thing, and not just because he refused to use an acronym for the nation.
He said Kruger’s Sooners would fill the arena “every single game” because “OU men’s basketball is on the way to the top in the United States of America.”
Saturday afternoon against the Jayhawks was the first time since it seemed like it might, no matter how remote, be possible.
Thanks to about 1,500 Kansas fans, the place was full. Indeed, when Kevin Young follow-dunked a Jeff Withey miss to begin the game, Lloyd Noble Center felt like Allen Fieldhouse South.
First the Sooners responded, then the fans responded. Then, as time wound down, a different dynamic ensued. Aside from OU’s student section, more Jayhawk than Sooner fans were standing. Like it was too much to bear for that swath of the Sooner Nation in attendance.
They just didn’t have it in them to let go with everything as long as the game could still get away. What energy they spent was saved for makes, misses and whistles. In between, they conserved. Like they didn’t want to get emotional in vain.
It was all perfectly sensible because it’s been so long for this program. It’s been so long since the three-headed monster that was Willie Warren, Tiny Gallon and Tommy Mason-Griffin torpedoed it and made it a loser.
After Saturday, it seems all right.
Better than winning was how the Sooners won.
They never trailed in the second half, but for a while is was like they were trying to, getting points on just 1 of 8 possessions as KU pulled within a point.
That was when OU’s old guard stood up, Romero Osby scoring on back-to-back possessions before Cam Clark scored on back-to-back-to-back possessions, making it 57-49. As they scored, Sam Grooms facilitated.
Another lull was interrupted by a 3-pointer from Amath M’Baye and yet another by a 3-pointer from Steven Pledger. Finally, it was Hornbeak down the stretch.
The gang’s all there.
By the way, the last time Kansas lost three straight was 2005. The last time the Jayhawks lost even two straight was 2006. But the rare Kansas losing streak steals nothing from OU.
“I’m not leaving out of here disgusted with my team,” Jayhawk coach Bill Self said. “We gave a decent effort out there, it just wasn’t good enough.”
Even good enough that the students rushed the floor.
Not even Castiglione predicted that, but they did.
The day OU beat Kansas. The day the Sooners scored the victory that made everything seem possible.
They all count. That’s the thing.
StOUt lives for Bedlam
To most people, Claremore’s Hannah Stout is a bubbly, warm-hearted dental hygenist with a priceless smile.
But, on Saturday’s in the fall, Stout is otherwise known as “Hannah Cabana” around legendary Oklahoma Sooner icons Barry Switzer, Thomas Lott and Mark Rodgers.
Taylor drains 6 treys, Lady Zebras clip Collinsville, 49-46
When it comes to shooting, the Claremore Lady Zebras would rather drain three pointers than free throws.
Claremore’s Monica Taylor converted four of her six treys in the second half for a game-high 18 points as the Lady Zebras held off Collinsville, 49-46 in the season opener Tuesday night at the Claremore High School Gym.
As the buzzer sounded, the Claremore Zebras found themselves in an unfamiliar place.
For the first time in two years, the Zebras were on the winning side of the scoreboard and pumping each other’s chests after their 43-29 season-opening victory over the Collinsville Cardinals.
Cards soar past Sperry
In a big Class 3A gun down, No. 3 Verdigris had more weapons than No. 6 Sperry.
In their home opener, the 2-0 Cardinals buried eight three-point shots and converted 21-of-23 free throws in rolling past the Pirates 69-54.
Battenfield, Hanslovan spark No. 4 Lady Cards past Sperry
Fourth-ranked Verdigris shot nearly 50 percent and forced Sperry into 22 turnovers, finally pulling away for a 73-41 home opening victory Tuesday night in Class 3A girls basketball.
Free tickets for OSU-South Carolina basketball game
Thanks to an anonymous donor, the remaining tickets for Friday night’s Oklahoma State men’s basketball game against South Carolina have been purchased and made available to the general public free of charge.
NFL: Cowboys' Hatcher savors rest, shrugs off rust
Jason Hatcher is happy to have the rest and not worried about accumulating rust.
The Dallas defensive tackle and his teammates were back at work Tuesday - but only for meetings - after having nine of the previous 19 days off thanks to a late bye and their annual mini-bye after Thanksgiving.
NFL: Ravens' Tucker shows range in kicking and singing
The Baltimore Ravens most formidable offensive threat these days is Justin Tucker, a quirky fellow whose skill set transcends kicking a football with uncanny accuracy.
Despite scoring only one touchdown in each of its last two games, Baltimore won twice because Tucker kicked four field goals against the New York Jets and five more in a 22-20 victory over Pittsburgh.
NFL: Vikings QB Cassel on track to start for Ponder
Matt Cassel stepped on the platform, grasped the podium with both hands, looked around and grinned.
''It's nice being up here. I've never been up here before. It's a pretty nice setup,'' Cassel said as he surveyed the makeshift interview area the Minnesota Vikings have set up next to their indoor practice field.
NFL: Rodgers limited as QB questions linger for Packers
Aaron Rodgers would rather not let the ''Will he-or-won't he'' questions linger until Sunday.
The Green Bay Packers' franchise quarterback expects a decision Friday -Saturday tops - whether he'll be medically cleared to face the Atlanta Falcons in a game crucial to the team's dwindling playoff prospects.
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