The Norman Transcript

December 28, 2012

After recent struggles, Sooners putting more stress on shooting

By John Shinn
The Norman Transcript

NORMAN — Most aspects of Oklahoma’s Thursday practice were typical. There was lots of full-court scrimmaging at a rapid pace.

There was one major alteration, though. Every 10 minutes or so, players broke into groups of three or four and shot jump shots — the same kind the Sooners have struggled to make in their first 10 games.

“We have to make more shots,” OU coach Lon Kruger said. “We have to shoot the ball better. Since we’ve been back at practice, we’ve been getting a lot of shots in practice and more before and after. When it’s all said and done, it comes down to making shots.”

The ability to make those jumpers is the difference between the Sooners entering Christmas break at 7-3, instead of — possibly — 9-1.

It’s not just 3-pointers that have been clanging off the rim. OU’s hitting those at just a 31.2-percent clip. It isn’t great by any stretch, but it would be doable if the Sooners were shooting better inside the perimeter. After last Saturday’s loss to Stephen F. Austin, they were shooting just 45.1 percent inside the 20-feet, 9-inch arc.

Hence, the jump-shot-filled afternoon Thursday. It will continue through today and, hopefully, lead to some success when OU faces Ohio at 7 p.m. Saturday at Lloyd Noble Center.

“On the year, we just haven’t made shots and it has surprised me a little bit,” Kruger said. “I still think we’ll shoot a lot better if we keep working at it.”

There’s ample room to improve. OU doesn’t have one player in its regular 10-man rotation shooting better than 50 percent. Leading scorer Romero Osby is shooting 48.8 percent, but has made up for it by shooting 80.8 percent at the free-throw line.

Steven Pledger is hitting at a 41-percent clip. Amath M’Baye is shooting 50 percent inside the 3-point line, but the 0-for-7 performance from the beyond arc has hurt. Even Andrew Fitzgerald, who entered the season as a career 48.1-percent shooter, is struggling (40.6 percent).

Players are as perplexed as Kruger.

“Every time we step on the court, we expect to be a mismatch team. We have a lot of different guys that can make a lot of plays,” Osby said. “It has been difficult and kind of frustrating.

“We have been getting in the gym and putting up a lot of shots, individually, and as a team. We’ll come out of it.”

It needs to happen quickly. The Sooners have two games left before Big 12 Conference play begins Jan. 5 at West Virginia. The shots must start falling if OU is to finally make a move up in the conference after three straight losing seasons.

Pledger spent most of his Christmas break in the practice gym. The $1,000 flight back to his native Virginia was the main reason he stayed in Norman, but he put the time to good use.

“Once we start making shots, I think everyone will get going,” he said.

That was the reason for the shooting breaks on Thursday. More of those jumpers have to start going through the net.

John ShinnFollow me @john_shinnjshinn@normantranscript.com

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