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March 24, 2014

Sooners have to end reliance on 3

NORMAN — With 11 seconds left in regulation, Oklahoma needed one point to win to beat North Dakota State and advance in the NCAA tournament. The fact that it tried for three symbolized the 2013-14 season and a missing ingredient required to improve its fortunes.

The Sooners’ addiction to 3-pointers defined its 23-10 season. When the deep shots fell, the Sooners were as good as any team in the Big 12 and a legitimate Top 25 team.

OU shot 39.7 percent from the arc this season and averaged 22.78 attempts per game. But it turned to 3-pointers, and little else, late in the season.

The Sooners attempted at least 30 in their last five games. Only once — the meeting with Baylor in the Big 12 tournament — were they trying to rally from a massive deficit.

“We’ve got to have more diversity offensively,” OU coach Lon Kruger said following Thursday’s 80-75 overtime loss to the Bison last Thursday in Spokane, Wash.

The hope is the three players OU has signed for next season will create more of it. OU inked prep forwards in November: Dante Buford, Khadeem Lattin and Jamuni McNeace.

Buford, a 6-foot-7 small forward from Arlington Country Day in Jacksonville, Fla., is in the mold of Cameron Clark and Tyler Neal, both seniors who played their final game last Thursday.

Lattin and McNeace are both traditional 6-foot-9 power forwards. OU didn’t have anyone like that, and the absence of a back-to-the-basket scorer really showed down the stretch.

Spangler averaged 9.3 points a game and in first three months of the season, and he was a rebounding machine that could score in the paint. His impact dipped considerably in the middle of February.

“We want to continue to shoot good shots, but Ryan, inside, will get more comfortable offensively,” Kruger said. “The younger kids we have coming in and the kids we have coming back, we’ll keep getting better.”

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