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January 11, 2014

Cyclones offer opportunity to crank up D

NORMAN — Back in November, Oklahoma coach Lon Kruger warned his team that it was heading down a dangerous path. They all knew scoring points was something they did well, but an over-reliance on that scoring ability came with a price.

“If we were just gonna run and score, the guys that do that don’t play defense and we didn’t want to do that,” OU forward Ryan Spangler said. “We’re doing that right now.”

Considering the Sooners (12-3, 1-1 Big 12) are giving up 79.1 points per game, which currently ranks No. 322 in Division I, there’s ample room for improvement.

The last three games show the problem. OU allowed 102 in an overtime loss to Louisiana Tech Dec. 30. It won at Texas Jan. 4 despite giving up 85 points and gave up 90 in Wednesday’s loss to No. 18 Kansas. Both the losses were at home.

A three-game losing streak is what OU is trying to avoid when No. 7 Iowa State (14-0, 2-0) arrives at Lloyd Noble Center at 11 a.m. today.

Everything about this game points to one of the best offensive games Lloyd Noble Center has hosted in a year. Both teams are averaging 87.0 points a game. OU’s Cameron Clark leads the league in scoring at 18.7 points a game. The Cyclones’ Melvin Ejim is No. 3 at 17.8.

But the reason Iowa State is the conference’s last undefeated team is because it’s defended with the same intensity it’s scored. Opponents are shooting 39.2 percent against the Cyclones. OU’s foes: 43 percent.

A percentage point typically equates to one a basket. How would the Sooners’ season look if it gave up four less baskets a game?

Kruger admitted the Sooners’ defensive issues have him worried. He said after the Kansas loss, when OU allowed another opponent to make more than it missed on its home floor, that something had to change.

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