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December 5, 2012

Osby's last shot doesn't fall in 81-78 loss to Arkansas

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FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. -- Senior forward Romero Osby is grimacing at the table in the interview room as reporters pepper him with questions about their 81-78 loss to Arkansas. Osby was put in this position because he seemed to have all the answers to Oklahoma's offensive output, hitting 5 of 6 attempts and scoring 14 points in the first half off the OU bench. Osby finished the game with a season-high 22 points.

But the questions which were hardest to answer came because Osby never got that 24th point, a bucket that could have changed a 'L' to a 'W' during Oklahoma's 81-78 loss to Arkansas inside Bud Walton Arena.

Osby had the look of a man who would rather be somewhere else, but he wasn't hiding. He fidgets and touches his face, while Lon Kruger gives his assessment of Oklahoma's overall performance after another tough road test early in the 2012 season.

The Sooners fought back from an 11-point deficit with just minutes to go in order to earn a chance at a win with seconds remaining, but they came up just short on Osby's shot in the end.

If Kruger is flustered by the loss, he's not showing it tonight. Kruger takes on questions with his usual air of quiet confidence and a nod toward learning from each game -- win or a loss.

"I thought Arkansas did some nice things that allowed them to win the ball game," Kruger says. "We've got to go home, and we've got a few days here to work on getting a lot better."

Kruger pays respect to the Razorbacks (4-3) for their deft 52.6 percent shooting from the floor, their 40.9 percent shooting from distance and Marshawn Powell's 33-point performance. After a question for Pledger, Osby is snapped back with a question about his last shot.

The shot he took 18 feet from the basket.

The shot he took with 2.4 seconds left in the game.

The shot that could have won the Sooners their last game against tough non-conference competition.

"Ro, the last shot you got up," a reporter asks. "Was that what you were looking for, or were you trying to get something closer to the basket?"

"That's what Coach drew up," Osby says. "And we just wanted to get it up in time, and if I didn't make it to get an offensive board. But that was what we were looking for."

"Did you think it was going in?" another reporter asks.

Osby fumbles his answer, and then settles his thinking.

"I thought it was going in when it left my hands, but unfortunately it didn't," Osby says. "Just didn't go in."

Osby stayed after practice Wednesday before Oklahoma traveled to Fayetteville to shoot in the men's basketball gym at Lloyd Noble Center. OU student manager Ali Rahill fed him ball after ball. He took shot after shot from beyond the arc, 20-footers, free-throws.

He was so entranced sports information officials had to ask him to stop in order to meet with members of the media about the Sooners' last true non-conference road test against Arkansas. He didn't know it then, but he foreshadowed Powell's outing.

Osby warned about the Arkansas power forward's toughness and versatility. He said Powell had a great inside game and outside game, and it was up the Sooners to make Powell settle for jumpers.

So Powell settled for jumpers, and hit 11 of 17 shots. He settled for 3-pointers and drained 4 of 6 attempts from beyond the arc.

"He's such a good player in a lot of different ways," Kruger says.

The questioning turns to 2-guard Steven Pledger, the man who hit back-to-back 3-pointers to give Oklahoma a 78-77 lead over Arkansas with 22 seconds left to play. He finished the game with 12 points, including 4 of 7 shooting from beyond the arc in 32 minutes.

Pledger is asked how it feels to watch Powell, his former Amateur Athletic Union teammate and a man Pledger has known since he was 10 years old, have a career night against the Sooners.

Powell lit the Sooners up for 19 first-half points on 7 of 9 shooting and s nailed all three of his 3-point attempts.

"It's definitely tough to lose, even though he's a friend," Pledger says, pawing at his hair. "It's good to see he did it, but I wish it was against somebody else."

Pledger's night, and questions directed toward him were only a secondary storyline.

Osby knew even with Powell's night, he was the one with the ball in his hands when it really mattered.

After all those shots in practice, it came down to just one on this night. Osby's season best performance should have ended in celebration, but the one shot that mattered most didn't fall.



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