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SPORTS: University of Oklahoma

One-On-One With Oklahoma Coach Lon Kruger

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Oklahoma basketball coach Lon Kruger came in studio for the Oklahoma Ford Sports Blitz this past Sunday. After the show, Kruger spent a few minutes with News9.com to talk about the Sooners' season and how the Thunder have affected college basketball in the state.

News9.com: Coach, what allowed your team to bounce back from Wednesday's clunker against Texas Tech with a tough road win against Oklahoma State on Saturday?

Kruger: I think the approach of the guys in each of the games helps you bounce back because like we said from the start, win or lose, we're going to prepare the same way. The guys did that in our preparation for Oklahoma State. They felt very bad about their play against Texas Tech, a club that came in and played very well, and we didn't match their level of physicality and emotion. We learned from that, but for the most part, we've been very enthusiastic and energy driven.

News9.com: How does coaching affect the ability to bounce back? You haven't had two clunkers in a row in any of your three seasons here.

Kruger: I think our approach is to focus on the next game. It's not the next month, it's not the next three weeks, it's the next game. I think that's consistent; our players know it, our coaches know it. We're playing against very good teams and we're going to get beat at times so we can't let one loss turn into a two or three game losing streak. Guys have done a great job of bouncing back.

News9.com: At the beginning of the season, would you have ever imagined your team would be alone in third place at this point in the year?

Kruger: Back in October, there were some questions and we didn't have any idea. We knew the conference was going to be good, we didn't know it would be this good, I don't think anyone projected it to be this level, the best. To be there battling for the top third in the league is something our guys feel good about and yet we have five games left and work to do.

News9.com: How important is getting a high seed in both the NCAA tournament and Big 12 tournament?

Kruger: You'd always like to get as high a seed as possible. It's one of those things where you don't worry too much about that. If you take care of business, the seed will take care of itself. Anytime you can play fewer ball games, you feel good about that over the course of a tournament.

News9.com: What's it like coaching a college team in what essentially is an NBA city/area?

Kruger: It raises the level of interest in basketball in general, in a very positive way. The Thunder do such a great job with in-game entertainment, the product on the floor is fantastic. I think it raises the bar, which is healthy for us, because we have to raise the bar. We have to do a better job at the university level. We certainly appeal to a different crowd, but we have to make it entertaining, we have to make it enjoyable. We always want to do that, but when the bar is set so high, where the Thunder sets it, in a good and healthy way, it makes us do a better job.

News9.com: Does having the Thunder close by have a positive impact on recruiting for you?

Kruger: I think it does. Each recruit is unique in what they're looking for. I think they're aware of the Thunder, they're aware of Durant, they're aware of the outstanding run they're having from a conversation standpoint. They see it being local so I think that's a good thing.

News9.com: Do you ever feel yourself competing with the Thunder for fans, eyeballs, etc.?

Kruger: Naturally you are to some degree. The fact they've raised the bar, they've certainly increased the interest in basketball in younger kids, through the families right on up, and I think that's a good thing. We've got to do a better job. We've got to market better, we've got to make in-game entertainment better, we've got to put better teams on the floor. We've just got to do a better job across the board to compete successfully.

Be sure to check out the video for Kruger's interview with Dean Blevins and John Holcomb from the Blitz.

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