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Sooners Enter Tough Stretch

When the Sooners walked off the floor of the Lloyd Noble center after a 73-67 win over hated rival Texas last Monday night, they knew the task that was upcoming. On the horizon, was a tough five-game stretch that could either validate their tournament resume or put it in serious jeopardy.

Jeff Withey and the Kansas Jayhawks were too much for the Sooners last Saturday.

The toughest of the five was up first, a road game at Kansas, a place where they haven’t won since 1993.The Jayhawks had just climbed to No. 3 in the polls, and came into the game as one of the hottest teams in the country. As expected, Kansas proved to be too much for the Sooners as they dropped to 13-5 and 4-2 in conference play with a 67-54 loss.

As it sits right now, the Sooners still need a couple of marque wins to boost their resume. The best win the Sooners have is the 77-68 win at Lloyd Noble over Oklahoma State on January 12th. At the end of the season, if that’s still the best win for the Sooners, an NCAA tournament berth is highly unlikely.

The advantage of this tough stretch is that the Sooners have several opportunities to post one or more marquee wins.

One of those opportunities will come tomorrow night when the Sooners travel to Waco to take on Baylor. So far this season, the Bears sit with a 14-5 record and have jumped out to a 5-1 start in Big 12 play. A win for the Bears tomorrow night will give them their best conference start since the 1968-1969 season.

Not only will winning in Waco be a tough task, but slowing down Big 12 leading scorer, Pierre Jackson will be challenging as well. Averaging 18.7 points per game, Jackson has scored in double figures in 26 straight games. He also ranks second in the conference in assists (5.9/gm) and 4th in steals (1.7/gm).

The Sooners will be underdogs in this game, but don’t chalk this one up as an automatic loss. It will take a great effort, but this Sooner team is capable of going on the road and winning.

Beyond tomorrow night, here’s how the rest of the stretch lays out.

February 2nd- vs. Kansas State

Romero Osby has been the main catalyst for the Sooners this season.

February 4th- at Iowa State

February 9th- vs. Kansas

A win at Baylor would be a bonus, but the Sooners have to at least split their games this week. Whether it’s a win at Waco or a home win over Kansas State, it’s imperative that the Sooners win at least one.

Next week, the road gets a lot tougher. After a home game on Saturday against Kansas State, the Sooners must turn around quickly and travel to Ames, Iowa to take on Iowa State on Monday night. Then, Kansas comes to Norman on Saturday.

If the Sooners can win two out of the next four, they would be more than happy. No matter who the wins come against, they would be the best two wins so far this season. The home loss to Stephen F. Austin doesn’t look good on the resume, and it leaves the Sooners with some work to do.

Most experts are projecting the Sooners to make the NCAA tournament. But, we’ll have a much better idea of their postseason fate after this tough stretch.

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