|| Sixth Man Strong
With just over four minutes remaining in last weekend's Bedlam win, junior forward Amath M'Baye took an inbounds pass mid-flight, slammed it home and raced to the other end of the court exclaiming "This is our house." It was arguably the most electric moment of the day inside the Lloyd Noble Center during a game that had no shortage of them.
"It was amazing," M'Baye said of the OU fan support Saturday. "As a team, it's always great to have the fans in the gym. The way they showed up and supported us the way they did, it was a great boost for us. I was trying to make sure everybody had fun and pump up the crowd the best that I could."
M'Baye did plenty of that, providing seven consecutive points vs. OSU that turned a six-point lead into a 13-point cushion. While the Sooner Nation exploded after each of his three baskets during that second-half stretch, the fans in attendance were just as loud from the opening tip.
"It really provides an extra boost of energy for our players," head coach Lon Kruger said. "Any time a home crowd gets involved and going like that, I thought it really helped get our guys off to a great start. We jumped out there 7-0 right off the bat and pretty much played with that lead most of the way."
With eight home games left on the schedule, including two in the next week -- Wednesday vs. Texas Tech (7 p.m. CT) and then Monday vs. Texas (8:30 p.m.) -- the Sooners hope to have that kind of energy inside the Lloyd Noble Center every time they take their home floor.
"If we can get the atmosphere like that all the time it makes it really hard for another team to come in here and win when they have to go against us and the crowd," senior forward Romero Osby said. "My message is to just keep coming if you can."
As M'Baye screamed to the OU faithful Saturday, "This is our house." Help the Sooners defend it.
|| Bedlam Bounce
Sure, Saturday's 77-68 win over Oklahoma State was good for OU's NCAA Tournament resume. After all, OSU has been ranked most of the season and is considered likely to make the field of 68 in March. And yes, the victory gave Sooner fans bragging rights, at least until the rematch in Stillwater on Feb. 16.
But the Bedlam victory produced some intangible team benefits as well; namely confidence.
Not that the Sooners were necessarily lacking in that department following a 10-point win at West Virginia the game before. But there's something about knocking off your arch rival in front of your own raucous fans that gets you feeling good about yourself.
"It's a confidence boost because Oklahoma State is a very good basketball team, and to have a full house, a great crowd and people really into it, it made our guys feel good," Kruger said. "It reinforced what they're doing and we're moving in the right direction. They understand there's a long way to go, but (it was) a good step."
Seeing some payoff is important for a team that's been working hard since the beginning of summer to get the Sooners back the postseason for the first time since 2009.
"It just gave people the opportunity to see that we have been getting better and are getting better," said freshman guard Je'lon Hornbeak, who was 3-for-3 from the field on Saturday. "And it showed that we can (do) some damage this postseason in the NCAA Tournament."
|| Another Big Week
After a win at West Virginia to open conference play and a Bedlam victory at home, things don't get any easier for OU. After all, this is the Big 12. The Sooners welcome Texas Tech to Norman on Wednesday before traveling to No. 16 Kansas State on Saturday. The key will be to keep the momentum going.
"We just have to focus like we did last week and the week before," M'Baye said. "Even if we have a little bit of time off, we have to stay solid and stay focused. Every time after a big win so far we were able to refocus and get a good week of practice. I think we had a good practice (Monday), we just have to have a good practice tomorrow and we'll be ready."
The key for the rest of the season will be to focus on the next game. Looking ahead could derail the momentum built from the previous outing. Even though a big game looms against Kansas State, the focus now is strictly on Texas Tech.
"Texas Tech is the most important game on the schedule right now because it's the next one," Osby said. "They're a good team; they're not going to come in here and lay down. We just have to come in here and play our hearts out and try to (hold) serve on our home floor. On the road we have a tough game against Kansas State. We just want to make sure we take care of Texas Tech first and then we'll get ready for Kansas State."
Practice by practice and game by game, OU's goal is to make continuous improvement. To keep the momentum going, the focus has to be on the short term.
"It's going to be a grind for 16 more ball games," Kruger said. "Guys are moving in the right direction, we're playing better basketball and most importantly, they really do believe that we can get a lot better. We need to get a lot better and keep making progress. As long as they continue to think that way, we have a chance to keep improving."
Oklahoma hosts two of its next three games, welcoming Texas Tech Wednesday, traveling to No. 16 Kansas State Saturday and returning home vs. Texas Monday:
Tickets | Full Schedule
The Sooners defeated OSU for the ninth consecutive time in Norman, improving to 2-0 in Big 12 play:
National "bracketologists" are currently projecting OU's first NCAA Tournament berth since 2009. Check out the latest:
8 Seed (SI's Andy Glockner)
9 Seed (ESPN's Joe Lunardi)
10 Seed (SN's Ryan Fagan)
Senior G Sam Grooms
"It pushed (our confidence) to the highest it's been all year. What we did prior to the game preparing for it pushed our confidence up even more too. Winning made it even better for us playing against a potential Top 25 team that will probably crack that list again."
Senior F Romero Osby
"It was a big game because it was Bedlam. We want to have those bragging rights even though we do have to play them again. It was good to get a good win under our belt against a team that's been in and out of the Top 25. It was just a big win for us overall because it was a Big 12 win."
Freshman G Je'lon Hornbeak
"It was the first time I had seen the Lloyd Noble Center really packed. It brought a lot of energy and really helped us get a little edge."
A win on Wednesday would be OU's fifth in a row, matching the longest streak under second-year head coach Lon Kruger. The Sooners won five straight December non-conference games last season.
OU has 11 wins despite playing just six home games (tied for the fewest home games among the 74 other teams in the six "power" conferences of the ACC, Big East, Big 12, Big Ten, Pac-12 and SEC). Thirty-six of the 74 teams entered the week having played at least 10 home games.
Oklahoma is ranked 14th in this week's edition of the NCAA's RPI. Kansas (No. 3) is the only other Big 12 team ranked inside the top 35.
In Big 12 play, Oklahoma leads the league in 3-point field goal percentage (.429), free throw percentage (.875) and field goal percentage defense (.345). The Sooners also rank second in turnover margin (+3.0 per game) and third in steals (7.5 spg) and scoring margin (+9.5 per game).
In its last two Bedlam home games, OU has never trailed Oklahoma State and neither contest was ever tied.
2012-13 Game Notes
Senior F Romero Osby
Osby leads OU in scoring (13.5 ppg), rebounding (6.3 rpg), blocked shots (0.9 bpg) and field goal percentage (.517) in just 24.9 minutes a contest. Since being held to an average of 10.0 points on .333 shooting over the final three games of November, Osby is averaging 15.9 points on .607 shooting over the last seven contests.
Senior G Steven Pledger
Pledger averages 11.5 points in a team-high 26.4 minutes a game. He ranks fourth in the Big 12 with his 2.2 treys per game and sixth with his .365 3-point percentage. Pledger has scored in double figures in each of the last seven outings, averaging 13.1 points during the stretch.
Freshman G Buddy Hield
Hield has started the last four games after coming off the bench the first 10. In those four starts, he is averaging 8.8 points, 4.8 rebounds and 5.0 assists. Over the last six outings, the Freeport, Bahamas, native is averaging 9.3 points and team highs of 5.7 rebounds, 3.7 assists and 1.5 steals.
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