NORMAN — Cohesion is going to be essential for Oklahoma. There hasn’t been any reason to doubt its part of this team’s fabric. However, bonds never really get tested until a team goes on the road.
The Sooners (1-0) will do that for first time at 7 p.m. today when they face Texas-Arlington (1-0) at the College Park Center in Arlington, Texas. Even OU coach Lon Kruger isn’t 100 percent sure what he’ll get.
“You never know about that first road game,” he admitted. “You hope to see composure and the transfer of the things you’ve been doing in practice and all the things you would see at home. But road games are different, especially when you have a lot of young guys that haven’t been on the road at the college level before.”
It is those young guys — freshmen guards Isaiah Cousins, Je’lon Hornbeak and Buddy Hield — that will be watched closest. Hornbeak and Cousins will start tonight, and Hield will play a starters’ minutes off the bench.
Counting on freshmen is routine in major college basketball. The days of letting them settle in with a couple minutes in a few games have long since passed.
However, this will be the trio’s first road trip and they know it won’t be the environment they’ve grown accustomed to.
“It’s not gonna be like high school,” Cousins said. “The crowd is gonna be a lot bigger. You just have to keep your composure.”
Kruger admits in an ideal world the Sooners would have played another game or two at home before venturing out. Typically, they get at least two home games in before playing in a Thanksgiving week tournament. This year is different. Tonight’s game against the Mavericks is part of Texas-Arlington’s homecoming celebration and the 7,000-seat arena is expected to be packed.
What happens tonight and over the next two weeks will help build some chemistry OU will rely on the rest of the year.
“Playing hostile environments show you a lot about yourself,” guard Sam Grooms said. “We’ve been telling the young guys the whole week about it. Teams are going to make runs and it’s going to get loud. You have to be able to respond to it.”
The Sooners believe they’re ready for the road obstacles. Might as well be confident. Ready or not, here they come.
John ShinnFollow me @firstname.lastname@example.org