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March 8, 2014

OU clinches No. 2 seed with win in Fort Worth

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Sophomore Je'lon Hornbeak remembered the moment Oklahoma's 2012-13 season began a turn for the worse.

It was almost exactly a year ago to the day that the Sooners traveled down I-35 to battle what was the worst team in the Big 12. The Horned Frogs had lost all but one of their league games -- with one notable exception.

Texas Christian upset a top 5 Kansas team last February, but that was it. Still, that should've been enough of a warning.

SIGHTS & SOUNDS: WEST VIRGINIA


Through rest of the month and into the early days of March 2013 the Horned Frogs had been beaten by every team they faced.

However, on March 9, 2013, Daniel-Meyer Coliseum they showed they had one more win left in them. It came against Oklahoma.

TCU came out hungry and opened up a 44-22 lead on the Sooners by halftime. By the time Sooners figured out the Horned Frogs had come to play, it was too late.

That lost to TCU was followed by a loss in the quarterfinals of last year's Big 12 tournament, and, finally, a loss in the first round of the NCAA tourney. Hornbeak points to the loss at TCU as the one that began the downward spiral for OU.

"We all remember how the whole game went, and we're not going to let anything slack off," Hornbeak said.

No. 23 Oklahoma will receive an opportunity to avenge their defeat against the Horned Frogs at 3 p.m. today.

But, once again, that game comes on TCU's Senior Day. And, once again, TCU will be the team playing with nothing to lose.

Oklahoma coach Lon Kruger expects his team to remember the loss a year ago and do what's necessary to correct it.

"When something like that happens, you have to learn from it," he said. "And if it will help us to refer to it, certainly we will."

The Sooners have had the scoring output to accomplish the task all season but lately they've also gained the fortitude to play defense.

Kruger has steadily attributed the team's resolve on the defensive end of the court to sophomore Isaiah Cousins' play on the perimeter and sophomore Ryan Spangler's presence in the paint.

"I thought the two of them gave us a higher expectation than we had earlier, and the results have been better since that," Kruger said.

Spangler has consistently been the Sooners' anchor in the post and remains the league leader in boards per game (9.5), though his scoring output has taken a dip lately.

"I haven't scored much the last couple games, but that doesn't matter as long as I'm impacting the game some other way," Spangler said. "Rebounding, playing (defense) -- whatever. This is a big game for us. We sure gotta win, and I just need to keep impacting the game."

The Horned Frogs haven't won a game since Dec. 29, 2013, when they beat Texas Southern at home. They haven't won a Big 12 game since they beat OU a year ago.

TCU boast one All-Big 12 caliber player in Kyan Anderson. Anderson averages 17 points and 4.4 assists per game, but his team has been decimated by injuries.

One notable TCU player, Amric Fields, hasn't played a game since Feb. 19. He still ranks second on the team in both points (13.1) and rebounds (6.1) per game.

Anderson will have to carry the load the scoring load, but he'll have help. Oklahoma coach Kruger is plenty aware TCU will be looking to go out with a win.

"We're always concerned and respectful, and this one is no different," Kruger said. "Last year, should be a little bit of an attention-getter and eye-opener for this group because most of these guys were on that squad and know what that felt like.

"(TCU) will be playing with great urgency to get a win, and we gotta respect that."



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