The Norman Transcript

January 14, 2014

Sooner offense faces challenge from Wildcat defense

By John Shinn
The Norman Transcript

NORMAN — The Big 12 Conference has become highly entertaining this season. There are a lot of very talented scorers and accomplished passers who know how to get them the ball.

No. 25 Oklahoma, which entered The Associated Press Top 25 for the first time this season on Monday, has already played three of them. Texas, Kansas and Iowa State all average more than 77 points a game and want to play an up-tempo, free-flowing style.

The conundrum the Sooners (13-3, 2-1 Big 12) face at 6 p.m. at Bramlage Coliseum in Manhattan, Kan., is that Kansas State (12-4, 2-1) is not cut from that same mold.

This will truly be a case of good offense against good defense and struggling offense versus struggling defense.

“They have an offense that can really put you in a bind because they can get you from the inside and the outside,” Kansas State coach Bruce Webber said about the Sooners who are averaging a Big 12 leading 87.0 points a game, but are allowing a league worst 79.2

“Defensively, they’re very good and work really hard. They’re fundamentally sound and have made defense the cornerstone of their identity,” OU coach Lon Kruger said about the Wildcats, who are holding opponents to a Big 12 best 59.8 points a game, but scoring conference worst 67.2. “They still have a lot of guys who can score, but defensively they’ve just been really good.”

The strengths of these teams will likely counteract each other today. If the score gets up in the 80s OU will have an excellent chance of winning. But that seems unlikely.

The more likely decider is which teams’ weakness improves. The Sooners have allowed all three of their conference opponents to shoot more than 50 percent from the field. There was better effort in Saturday’s victory over Iowa State. Mainly in the last three minutes, OU made every stop it had to win the game.

It was a step in the right in the direction.

“We’re making progress defensively, but we still have a long way to go,” Kruger said. “We haven’t played with the confidence and anticipation you have to have.”

If OU can discover those two things, its stunning start to Big 12 play may very well continue to roll through the Wildcats.

These strength-on-strength matchups rarely live up to the billing. When polar opposites meet, usually a weakness turns out to be better than expected.

The Sooners know if they want to beat the Wildcats, they have to beat them at their own game — they have to guard them.

It’s something Kruger has labored with the team all season. Winning in the Big 12 will mean winning close games. An over-reliance on scoring makes winning much tougher.

Consider the Kansas State game a test for the rest of the season: The Sooners have to battle at both ends to win tough games — road games — against quality opponents.

“Every possession has to mean more to us,” OU guard Jordan Woodard said.

Tonight, OU needs to show that it understands that.

John Shinn

Follow me @john_shinn


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