NORMAN — Bucket lists are for those who’ve at least reached middle age. College freshmen still have plenty of time to assemble what they want to experience in life.
However, Oklahoma’s Je’lon Hornbeak and Buddy Hield have already started working on what they want to experience during their collegiate careers.
Among them, were to play in some of the most vaunted venues.
“We want to play at Duke and we wanted to play at Kansas. Those were the main two,” Hornbeak said.
A game at Duke’s Cameron Indoor Stadium won’t occur anytime soon, but they can check off Kansas’ Allen Fieldhouse when the Sooners (13-4, 4-1 Big 12) face the third-ranked Jayhawks (17-1, 5-0) at 3 p.m., today.
The excitement Hornbeak and Hield have for playing at Kansas is one of the strange dynamics of Big 12 Conference basketball. Oklahoma hasn’t won there since 1993. Back then, Billy Tubbs was head coach, but he had more success in that arena than any OU coach over the last 30 years. Tubbs went 4-10 in games there.
Kelvin Sampson’s squads went 117-59 from 1994-95 through 2005-06. A Final Four banner was hung in 2002, an Elite Eight appearance came in 2003. In 2005, OU shared the Big 12 regular-season title with the Jayhawks. However, Sampson’s teams were 0-6 on Kansas’ court. Jeff Capel went 0-2 during his five seasons.
Lon Kruger in no stranger to taking teams in college basketball’s more treasured arenas. He did it as player at Kansas State in the early 1970s and did it once a year as the Wildcats’ coach from 1986-1990.
Ask Kansas State fans what his biggest win as a coach was and it might be its win at Allen Fieldhouse in 1988 that halted the Jayhawks’ 55-game home winning streak.
Ask Kruger what his toughest loss as a player was and Kansas State’s 60-55 loss in Lawrence in 1974 — his final game there as a player — comes up quickly. There’s no doubt Kruger has a sincere respect for the venue.
“Kansas is a premier place, a tough place and a great atmosphere,” he said.
Despite all the tough losses, OU — and just about everyone else — has experienced there over the years, it still relishes the opportunity to play in front of 16,300 screaming Kansas fans.
“Everyone wants to play in front of a big crowd,” Hield said. “There’s an energy that you can feed off of. Everyone wants to be in games like that.”
How Hornbeak and Hield feel about it early this evening might be different. It’s one thing to see it on television without a rooting interest. It’s another thing when you’re on the team that’s playing Kansas, and all the crowd noise bouncing off the 67-year-old ceiling is meant to destroy any chance of you winning.
Hield and Hornbeak both believe they can block all that out. But don’t be surprised if both have wide eyes when the Sooners are warming up before the game.
“This place at the top of my list,” Hield said.
NSU on road
The Northeastern State women’s basketball team will begin a three-game road trip in Joplin, Mo., this weekend and for the first time in four contests, it’s not a ranked team that awaits them.
The RiverHawks (12-5, 7-2 MIAA) have won eight of their last nine games, and they are set to face Missouri Southern State (10-6, 4-4 MIAA) at 1:30 p.m. today inside Leggett & Platt Athletic Center
Senior guard Taylor Lewis has scored in double figures in all but one game this season, but she has been especially hot over the last 11 games. Ever since a 21-point outburst against Emporia State on Dec. 5, Lewis has averaged 18.5 points per game (203 total) with shooting percentages of 49 from the field (66-for-135), 51 from downtown (42-for-82) and 91 from the free-throw line (29-for-32).
For the season, Lewis is averaging 16.1 points per game to rank second in the MIAA. She is the league’s top scorer during conference games at 18.8 ppg.
Also at Joplin, the RiverHawks (13-4, 6-3) are set to face Missouri Southern State (9-7, 4-4 MIAA)
The RiverHawks sit in third in the league table and stand a half game behind Northwest Missouri State (6-2). Central Missouri leads the way at 7-1, with Lindenwood a half game behind Northeastern State. NSU was selected to finish 14th in the conference this season by both the media and the league coaches.
W. Virginia at Oklahoma St., noon
Arkansas at S. Carolina, 12:30 p.m.
Oklahoma at Kansas, 3 p.m.
NSU at Missouri Southern, 3:30 p.m.
Southern Miss at Tulsa, 7 p.m.
McNeese at ORU, 7:30 p.m.
Bacone at SW Assemblies, 7:30 p.m.
Oklahoma at Baylor, 11 a.m.
NSU at Missouri Southern, 1:30 p.m.
Oklahoma St. at Kansas, 8 p.m.
McNeese at ORU, 5 p.m.
Bacone at SW Assemblies, 5:30 p.m.