NORMAN, Okla. — It’s been a long time since the Sooners could say they were a ranked basketball time.
Not anymore. They received 103 votes in this week’s AP Top 25, and they’re now listed at No. 25, tied with UCLA, heading into tonight’s 6 p.m. CT contest at Kansas State.
“That’s great for the guys,” said OU head coach Lon Kruger. “They’ve worked hard and they understand obviously it’s very early and a long way to go and a lot of work to do. But [that’s] a nice reward for a lot of good progress.”
For every player on the team, it’s the first time they’ve been able to be part of a ranked basketball team.
And that’s especially vindicating for guys like forward Cameron Clark, who has been through the tough times and helped bring OU out of them these past couple seasons.
Most importantly, exactly, and that’s what it is. It’s just a snapshot of right now. Again, we’ve got a lot of progress to make and guys understand that and they keep working hard at it. And it’s nice to see their name in there, but other than that, we’ve got a lot of work to do.
“I mean, it’s just growth,” Clark said. “You know, the hard work from last year and this year is kind of paying off, but we still got a lot of work to do. So, we’re not really worried about that. I mean, it’s good for the fans, but we’re still working to get better…First time in four years, so it feels pretty good. We’re just trying to keep working just to climb up the polls.”
Younger players, such as guard Buddy Hield, understand the significance of being in this type of position as well.
“I mean, it means a lot to guys that haven’t been ranked since 2009 like Cameron Clark and the seniors, for their first time to experience that,” Hield said. “And I’m a sophomore; it’s my first time experiencing that and I’ve got a lot to come. But we’re still hungry. We’re never satisfied. We want to get love. You know, we just want to prove everybody wrong and earn some more respect around the country.”
Redshirt sophomore Ryan Spangler echoed those comments.
“It’s moving up,” Spangler said. “I think it just lets everybody know what we’re capable of. Yeah, we’re in the Top 25, like we were saying today, but we still got to prove ourselves. You know, you just want to keep winning and moving up as far as you can.”
Their challenge tonight in doing so will by no means be an easy one.
Kansas State brings the No. 1 defensive club into the contest, limiting opponents to only 59.8 points per game.
So, OU will need to try and push the pace and stay out of long possessions in the half court to give itself its best chance of winning.
“We always try to do that,” Kruger said. “Kansas State is very good at not allowing that. So, any time you go on the road and play against a ball club that’s very good defensively and tough with the ball offensively, it’s easier said than done to push the tempo, but we’ll try to push it out and see what we can do about it.”
Conversely, though they’ve been outscored in their first three conference games while going 2-1, the Sooners lead the league in scoring offense at 87.0 points per game.
It’s a battle, then, of teams that contradict each other, and OU will try to keep near the top of the league standings early on in it.
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