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March 1, 2013

OU vs. Texas — Follow-up

NORMAN — Spend four decades coaching college basketball and there will be indelible games. Oklahoma coach Lon Kruger conceded that Wednesday’s 92-86 overtime loss at Texas was one that will forever stick in his mind.

“There’s a few that kinda linger and that one will linger as much as any,” he said Thursday after the Sooners’ practice.

There are ample reasons why that will be the case. Losing a 22-point lead with slightly less than eight minutes to play is the obvious one.

But don’t forget the implications the loss could have on the Sooners’ NCAA Tournament hopes, their spot in the Big 12 standings, or that they had Texas — one of OU’s biggest basketball rivals — on the ropes in its own arena and let it slip away.

OU (18-9, 9-6 Big 12) muffed a chance to move into fourth place by itself in the conference standings. The loss dropped it from No. 21 to No. 29 in the Ratings Percentage Index.

For anyone in OU’s practice gym Thursday, the final minutes of regulation and overtime were a nightmare.

Amath M’Baye, who scored 16 points, turned into the lightning rod. It was his downward “Hook ‘em Horns” sign after a dunk that gave the Sooners a 22-point lead with 7:54 to go that seemed to invigorate the Longhorns.

“I’m just an energy guy and I get hyped. I was just excited. It’s a common sign between the two teams. You see it every day on TV,” he said. “It wasn’t like I was trying to be disrespectful.”

Hundreds of OU players — in every sport it competes against Texas in — have done it before. It would be insane to think he’ll be the last.

“Some times you have tough nights, and he (M’Baye) really played well last night. He really did some really good things for us last night,” said OU forward Romero Osby, who scored a career-high 31 points Wednesday. “We’re not blaming him; we’re not blaming anybody. We’re just looking at our ourselves and what we need to work on.”

M’Baye’s gesture did not lose the game for the Sooners. The cold hard facts were that OU, which is now the only team to shoot over 50 percent against the Longhorns this season, was just 3 for 15 from the field with five turnovers after M’Baye’s dunk.

The cold shooting might have been the law of averages evening things out. The Sooners hit 26 of 42 shots after M’Baye’s dunk.

OU’s defensive collapse, however, was harder to explain. Texas point guard Myck Kabongo scored 24 points in the last 7:34 of regulation and overtime. He wasn’t the only Longhorn who heated up.

The Longhorns picked up at least one made free throw on their last nine possessions of regulation and scored on seven of eight overtime possessions. One stop in 17 possession is inexplicable over nine minutes.

“Certainly,” Kruger said, “you can’t give up points like that late in a ball game. There was a combination of a lot of things that made it disappointing, but that was one of them for sure.”

The Sooners weren’t worried about the outcome as much as they were focused on the circumstances that led to it the day after.

They face Iowa State (19-9, 9-6) at 12:30 p.m., Saturday at Lloyd Noble Center. The next game will have a bigger hand in the Sooners’ postseason fate.

“We can’t dwell on what happened. We didn’t finish like we wanted to,” Osby said. “We can take some positives from it and move forward.”

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