NORMAN — So much has changed since Oklahoma and Oklahoma State last met that it’s hard to keep up without a scorecard.
For the Sooners, they’ve managed to keep themselves in the Big 12 Conference race by winning five of nine since that 77-68 victory over the Cowboys on Jan. 12 at Lloyd Noble Center.
No. 17 OSU (18-5, 8-3 Big 12), well, it has won seven of its last eight since Bedlam’s first act of 2013. The team that seemed to be teetering in mid January is now towering atop the Big 12 along with Kansas and Kansas State.
“They’ve won a lot of games and are playing very well,” OU coach Lon Kruger said.
The courses both teams have been on have made today’s 12:30 p.m. meeting at Gallagher-Iba Arena in Stillwater the mostly highly anticipated Bedlam game in several years.
OU (16-7, 7-4) hasn’t faced a ranked OSU team since 2007. The Cowboys haven’t faced an OU squad in the thick of the conference race since 2009.
In this case, change is very good for Bedlam. The modifications the Sooners have had to make since the first meeting, however, are the kind that are hard to predict.
Today will be OU’s first game without freshman guard Buddy Hield. He suffered a broken bone in his right foot in Monday’s win over TCU.
Hield’s injury is the first serious hit of bad luck the Sooners have faced all season. The urge they have to fight is altering who they are because of Hield’s absence.
There’s no arguing that some things have to change. Hield had an immense impact on the Sooners’ victory over the Cowboys. He scored 15 points and had five assists in the game.
Je’lon Hornbeak will get the start in his place. He wasn’t an afterthought in the first Bedlam meeting either. Hornbeak was 3 for 3 from the field and finished with eight points in a game he started.
He’ll be in the starting lineup again today. This time, he’ll be on the wing instead of point guard. OU has moved freshman Isaiah Cousins into that spot and he’s played well the last three games.
Hornbeak, however, can’t be a Hield clone. OU wants him to be a more consistent version of what he has been in the last few games.
“I have to keep the same mindset,” Hornbeak said. “I have to keep being aggressive offensively and defensively.”
The same can be said for junior forward Cameron Clark, who is going to see his minutes increase today and the rest of the season. Clark had been earning more time before Hield’s injury. He’s scored 35 points in the last four games and has shot 16 for 25 from the field.
“We’re a man short in the rotation and someone will have to step up and play those minutes really well,” Kruger said. “That’s the value of depth; those guys have played well all year.”
The critical secret to Bedlam has never been getting certain players to produce epic performances. More often than not, winning comes down to which team can be the most consistent.
OU was that team back in January. It’s still in the race for the Big 12 title because of it. The Cowboys are at the top of the standings for that very reason, too.
The Sooners know their roles for Bedlam’s second act. To do what you’ve been doing a little better has been a winning formula for the Sooners.
“We’re not going to ask those guys to do anything different from what they’ve already done,” Kruger said. “Je’lon’s played pretty well the last two ball games and Cam has been playing well for a while. They’re just going to have more minutes to do the same things.”
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