The Norman Transcript

December 4, 2013

Sooners want to get defense up to speed, too

By John Shinn
The Norman Transcript

NORMAN — A typical start to a college basketball season isn’t very pretty. Offense tends to be slow out of the gate and most teams — even really good ones — live and die with their ability to get stops.

So, Oklahoma averaging 88.7 points per game during its 6-1 start has been remarkable.

“We’ve reversed those roles a little bit,” OU coach Lon Kruger said. “We’ve been pretty consistent shooting the ball and the pace has been pretty consistent. We’ve moved the ball and limited turnovers.”

The Sooners face Texas A&M-Corpus Christi (3-6) at 2 p.m. today at Lloyd Noble Center. The game was moved up five hours due to the weather forecast of freezing precipitation Thursday night. Admission is free for the game.

The game will be another chance to showcase the torrid offensive pace OU is on. But what has OU concerned is the 79.3 points a game it has allowed.

Points are up throughout college basketball. The NCAA’s decision to have the game called a little tighter is having the intended effect. Games have been higher scoring.

The Sooners, however, haven’t guarded teams with the same vigor they have in past seasons. Some of it has to do with the new emphasis on movement. Players and coaches are still in the feeling out process when it comes to how tight or loose officials are going to call games.

Kruger believes his players have guarded with too much caution — especially in the first few games. They’ve progressively become more aggressive on the defensive end.

“You can tell in our games that when we’ve been getting stops, it’s been easy to run out and get easy layups,” forward Ryan Spangler said. “When teams are making shots, we have to take the ball out of bounds and it gets hard.”

The scoreboard didn’t necessarily illustrate it, but OU might have turned a defensive corner in Monday’s 96-82 victory over Mercer.

That game basically came down to two big OU runs. It had a 14-0 run early in the first half that created a double-digit lead. An 18-0 run to start the second half put the game away.

The key to both was holding Mercer without a basket for several minutes at a time.

“It was one of our better efforts defensively. Mercer is a very good team offensively,” Kruger said. “They run a bunch of stuff and execute it well. I thought our guys battled that pretty well. I thought we took a step.”

Getting those consistent stops is the step the Sooners have to take. Offensively, they’re a very good team, but very good teams can win on the defensive end, too.

“We just have to get to where we’re playing every defensive possession like it’s our last,” guard Jordan Woodard said.

The ability to do it is the only chink in the armor the Sooners have shown thus far, but they’re trying fix it. Today’s game is another chance.

John Shinn

Follow me @john_shinn

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