Lon Kruger’s Sooners prepare to enter a college basketball cathedral missing its congregation.
The No. 6-ranked Kansas Jayhawks play host to Oklahoma on Saturday, but one of the greatest home court advantages in the sport will be neutered.
Just 2,500 fans are permitted inside Phog Allen Fieldhouse this season in accordance with the social distancing guidelines handed down by the Big 12.
“Definitely different,” Kruger said during a video press conference. “Every time we go on the road it’s a different feeling than, you know, playing before a crowd.
“Certainly the Allen Fieldhouse crowd is one of the best in the country, so it’ll be even magnified, you know, the difference this year.”
In their last home game, the Jayhawks were dealt their largest home defeat under head coach Bill Self when Shaka Smart’s No. 4 ranked Texas Longhorns romped KU 84-59, dwarfing the previous mark for largest home loss under Self (12 points).
The Sooners have their own hill to climb inside Allen Fieldhouse. OU hasn’t topped Kansas in Lawrence since 1993, when Billy Tubbs leaned on Terry Evans to silence The Phog.
Buddy Hield famously came close in 2016, pouring in 46 points across regulation and three overtimes, ultimately falling 109-106 to Self’s squad.
This year’s OU team is also finishing a grueling conference stretch of four straight top-20 opponents. In their last outing on Wednesday night, the Sooners were handed a 76-61 defeat at the hands of the No. 2 Baylor Bears in Waco.
Sophomore guard De’Vion Harmon said while the tough stretch will make OU better in the long run, the team has to stay focused on getting better each day.
“We’ve got to move on, today’s a new day. Take care of today, take care of tomorrow and get ready to go to battle on Saturday,” Harmon said. “You got to stay in the moment, you know, live in the moment and just keep keep going, man. Keep fighting, keep having fun and just stay together.”
Kruger said he was pleased with how his team fought back at times against Baylor, and his Sooners have to try to replicate that level of play for an entire game to upset the Jayhawks.
“We’ve got to really take a look at those (moments) carefully and try to do what we did in those stretches for 40 minutes,” Kruger said. “Against really, really good teams, you don’t have much margin. So you can’t afford those moments, those stretches that aren’t very good.”
Tipoff between the Sooners and the Jayhawks is scheduled for 3:30 p.m. Saturday, and the game will be broadcast on CBS.
“We got to go in there, you know, go into Allen Fieldhouse and look at it as if they had all 17 to 18, maybe 19,000 people in there,” Harmon said. “We’ve got to be ready for a fight. We got to go with the old slogan of we’ve got blood in our mouth and we got to come with it. And I know we will.”