Kansas State University

K-State faces out-of-synch Sooners

NORMAN, Okla. —Oklahoma basketball coach Jeff Capel cannot deny his frustrations.

A year ago he guided the Sooners to within a game of the Final Four and signed two high school All-Americans. Even with the departure of No. 1 NBA Draft pick Blake Griffin, Oklahoma entered this season with high expectations and a national ranking.

But as they prepare to play No. 7 Kansas State today, the Sooners have virtually no hope of making it back to the NCAA Tournament. They are struggling to stay above .500 and have lost six of their last eight games.

"I've never been a part of a team as a coach where things like this have happened," Capel said. "It's frustrating not winning."

Some, including K-State coach Frank Martin, think youth is causing Oklahoma's woes. Three of its top six scorers are freshmen and one is a sophomore.

Capel, though, says the Sooners' troubles are deeper.

"Some of the things we've gone through," Capel said, "have been self-inflicted this year because of stupid decisions that our guys have made."

Those foolish choices include Andrew Fitzgerald and Steven Pledger recently being arrested for suspicion of shoplifting, Juan Patillo being kicked off the team before the season for unspecified reasons and Tiny Gallon receiving a recent suspension for an internal matter.

Willie Warren has also missed time because of mononucleosis.

Oklahoma fans have found themselves wondering who will be available for games.

Everyone appears likely to suit up today. Gallon and Warren both returned for Wednesday's loss at Colorado, and their most relied-upon players once again appear good to go.

"They've got a lot of talent," K-State guard Jacob Pullen said. "I hope (we) understand this is a team full of talented people. They're just having an up-and-down season. They play well at home. I hope we don't go in there overlooking them."

If that happens, Martin predicts a struggle. K-State hasn't played a complete game in its last three, needing strong second halves to hold off Iowa State, Colorado and Nebraska.

Oklahoma (13-12, 4-7) shares a similar record to those teams, but has taken a much different path.

"We better be a heck of a lot better than what we were (in those games) to have a chance on the road," Martin said.