Oklahoma basketball coach Lon Kruger can’t remember the last time he was part of a seven-game losing streak.
“I can’t imagine we have had many, if any, before,” Kruger said. “I certainly hope we don’t have any more.”
Brad Underwood can relate. Oklahoma State’s four-game losing streak is the longest skid of his career as a Division I coach.
“We have got to figure out how to start games better and how to finish games better,” Underwood said. “With the exception of the West Virginia game, we have had opportunities to win all four, we just haven’t closed with the mentality of a winning team. We aren’t far off.”
For now, the Sooners and Cowboys are in the same spot. Both teams are struggling and winless in Big 12 games. Both teams are staring up at the rest of the conference. Both teams hope their Big Monday matchup on Jan. 30 isn’t a nationally televised pillow fight for ninth place.
Few could have predicted this before the season, as Oklahoma was fresh off a Final Four appearance and Oklahoma State was healthy with an up-and-coming coach. Even a month ago, this seemed unlikely. The Cowboys were on the verge of a national ranking when they started 10-2. The Sooners began 6-2.
Now, a Bedlam team is in danger of finishing in the Big 12 cellar for the first time.
“Our focus has to be on making small progress and getting better every day,” Kruger said. “All that matters is us improving today.”
Help is here for Oklahoma. Jordan Woodard, the Sooners’ best player, returned to the lineup after missing six games against Kansas and his contributions were noticeable immediately. He scored seven points in 24 minutes and Oklahoma took a halftime lead. Kruger said he played remarkably well for someone who hadn’t seen the court in a month.
Oklahoma was a punchless team without Woodard, but it has a chance with him.
Kansas coach Bill Self shared his thoughts on Oklahoma State, which visits Lawrence on Saturday.
“They have played a tough schedule,” Self said. “It’s certainly not a schedule you would think going into it that, if we play really well right here, we could win 3 of 4. I know everyone wants to get off to a strong start, but they have had a ridiculously hard schedule.”
Oklahoma State’s last four losses came against No. 10 West Virginia, Texas, No. 1 Baylor and Iowa State. Thing is, the schedule doesn’t get any easier. Next up is a road trip to No. 2 Kansas, a home game with No. 25 K-State and a road trip to Texas Tech.
The climb out of last place won’t be easy.
Morris to the rescue
Iowa State guard Monte Morris had one of the best individual games of any Big 12 player this season against Oklahoma State on Wednesday.
Morris made 10 of 16 shots, including four three-pointers, for a game-high 30 points and led the Cyclones past the Cowboys 96-86. He also had five assists, five rebounds and four steals.
“Your best player has to play well on the road to win, and when we needed him tonight, he was good,” Iowa State coach Steve Prohm said afterward. “He was good all night. It was a special performance, and he was at his best when we needed him. That’s what defines great players.”
Suspension at Texas
Texas announced Wednesday that it has suspended leading scorer Tevin Mack indefinitely for a violation of team rules. Mack was averaging 14.8 points and 4.8 rebounds.
“We have a set of standards that we expect people in our program to adhere to,” Texas coach Shaka Smart said in a statement. “Tevin has failed to reach them.”
1. Kansas (15-1, 4-0 Big 12): Jayhawks could move up to No. 1 with a win over Oklahoma State.
2. West Virginia (14-2, 3-1): Mountaineers overwhelmed No. 1 Baylor with their defense.
3. Baylor (15-1, 3-1): Bears no longer undefeated. Can they bounce back at Kansas State?
4. Texas Tech (13-3, 2-2): Red Raiders are tough to beat in Lubbock.
5. TCU (13-3, 2-2): Victories in Austin are always huge for TCU.
6. Iowa State (11-4, 3-1): Monte Morris did it all for Cyclones at Oklahoma State.
7. Kansas State (13-3, 2-2): Wildcats could use some better luck and execution in road games.
8. Texas (7-9, 1-3): Longhorns might be headed for a losing season.
9. Oklahoma State (10-6, 0-4): Brad Underwood still looking for his first Big 12 victory.
10. Oklahoma (6-9, 0-4): Jordan Woodard’s return will help the Sooners.
Kellis Robinett: @kellisrobinett