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January 13, 2013

HD & Notebook: M'Baye comes up big when it matters

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NORMAN, Okla. -- Junior forward Amath M'Baye endured his share of up and down games this season.

In the Old Spice Classic tournament against West Virginia, he scored a season-high 19 points. Against Texas A&M in the All-College Classic, he didn’t score a single point in 14 minutes.

The Sooners have picked M'Baye up in games where he hasn’t played his best basketball. But against Big 12 competition Oklahoma will need its second-best post playing up to his ability.

SCOOPHD: HIGHLIGHTS AND BREAKDOWN OF OU'S 77-68 BEDLAM WIN

He did that Saturday against a vaunted Oklahoma State team, helping the Sooners defeat the Cowboys 77-68 in Lloyd Noble Center. During the latter stages of the game, M'Baye scored seven straight OU points. He finished the game with 15 points on 5-of-9 shooting, five boards and two steals.

“I’m pretty sure every single basket was assisted,” M'Baye said. “It came from assists, so that seven-point stretch wasn’t mine. It was the teams.”

M'Baye is feeling more comfortable in OU’s offense and finding it easier to be himself within Oklahoma men’s basketball coach Lon Kruger's system. That’s for the best if the Sooners are going to make a run at reaching the NCAA tournament this season.

“I’m starting to feel great,” M'Baye said. “Just the fact that I’m able to work with my teammates and my teammates are able to work with me. I take issue to make sure I know every play or philosophy, to know where the ball is supposed to go.”

NCAA TOURNEY CHANCES

Kruger knows his players follow the media as it relates to OU basketball but said the prognosticators’ forecast for the Sooners (11-3, 2-0) to reach the NCAA tournament this year isn’t discussed at practice.

“As fans, we watch it of course,” Kruger said. “But we don’t dwell on it at this point.”

Fair enough. It’s January.

Still, with this win against Oklahoma State (11-4, 1-2), ESPN.com and CBSSports.com’s projections for the Sooners to earn a decent spot in the tournament doesn’t look terrible.

FOUL ON CLARK

A called foul on junior Cameron Clark with 12:42 left to play could’ve change the momentum of the game. The Sooners had just a 50-43 lead, but Clark’s foul on Cowboy Le'Bryan Nash was called a flagrant-1, which awarded OSU two free throws and the ball.

“That’s the way the rule is,” Kruger said. “I think they enforced it and called it correctly. The other guys responded to it very well.”

After freshman guard Phil Forte hit both free throws, Oklahoma had just a five-point lead. OU could’ve come apart during winning time, but it didn’t and the foul by Clark didn’t stop the Sooners reaching 2-0 in conference play for the first time since 2009.

FRESHMAN PHENOM STOPPED

The Sooners held OSU freshman Marcus Smart to just 10 points on 3-of-10 shooting and three assists in his Bedlam debut.

OU attacked Smart early and often in the paint, and forced him to pick up his fourth foul early in the second half. OSU played much of that game without its best player this season.

“I think Marcus was burdened by the fouls tonight, which limited him a little bit,” Kruger said. “He is a terrific player and makes those around him better.”

The Sooners received a boost from its bench and proved it could sustain a lead against quality competition.

“That is really unique, and it is really unselfish for those guys,” senior Romero Osby said. “Our chemistry has been really good, and I think it’s been real good for us because we have young guys who are learning and getting an opportunity to step up and guys are getting more comfortable.”



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