Sooners hope to get back on track vs. Bears

NORMAN, Okla. — There are ebbs and flows in Big 12 Conference play and right now the Sooners are in midst of one of those ebbs.

Fresh off a 67-54 setback at Kansas last weekend, it was back to the drawing board at the beginning of this week.

"After any game it doesn't change too much because our focus is on getting better today, improving our habits, improving our execution, just doing things better every possession," said OU head coach Lon Kruger.

Now, it's time to put that to the test as they get back to action and it doesn't get any easier from here.

The Sooners are set for a 6 p.m. CT battle tonight in Waco, Texas, against the Baylor Bears, who, like the Jayhawks, present some problems themselves.

They have a 7-foot-1-freshman center in Isaiah Austin that is averaging a near double-double with his 14.5 points and 8.8 rebounds per game.

He's a player Sooner guard Je'lon Hornbeak is very familiar with as the two went to high school together.

"We would always try to be better [than each other]," said Hornbeak, who mentioned they were competitive in one-on-one and still even are in games like Temple Run. "We'd always try to outdo one another, work harder."

Austin's impact inside means OU's most reliable player in 2012-13, forward Romero Osby, must show up and not have a repeat of his poor 4-of-16 performance the other night.

"I just tell him to bounce back and keep doing what he's been doing," Kruger said.

Fellow forward Amath M'Baye must also come to play with Austin's presence coupled with that of another near double-doubler in the post, Cory Jefferson.

"I mean, Isaiah is a good player," M'Baye said. "He's a cool guy. I got to spend a little bit of time in the summer with him, but I'm looking forward to the challenge. Baylor's a good team. They're athletic. They know how to play basketball. I mean, I'm not really worried about his size as much as I'm worried about me doing my job and getting us a win."

Something else that will be critical in order to slow those two down is containing the playmaking and chances Baylor's leading scorer, point guard Pierre Jackson, presents.

Freshman guards Hornbeak and Buddy Hield could be charged with that task of limiting the veteran who nets 18.7 points per contest.

"You have to give a little help to whoever's on him," Kruger said. "He's very quick. He's very good. He's shooting the 3. He's attacking the paint. He makes plays for teammates. He does a lot of really good things. You have to give him some extra attention, but they've got other good players around him, so it's a little scary."

Hornbeak said he is more than ready for that challenge, though aware of how difficult it will be.

"Pierre is a good player," Hornbeak said. "He's quick, crafty. He really likes to make a lot of plays, score as well and [we'll have to] just try to keep him contained, which is easier said than done. But just keeping him contained and kinda slow down the offense, and that'll go to our favor."

If the Sooners are able to do those things, there's a good chance they'll walk out of the Ferrell Center victorious and still amongst the top half of the Big 12 Conference.

If not, well, it'll be back to the drawing board again to climb back up.

Follow me at twitter.com/joeyhelmer10 or facebook.com/joeyhelmer.

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