Isaiah Cousins

Buddy Hield
Associated Press

Hield leads No. 7 Oklahoma past Oral Roberts 96-73

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NORMAN, Okla. (AP) Buddy Hield scored. Just like he usually does.

His defensive energy was just as critical – the senior had a career-high five steals to go with 30 points as No. 7 Oklahoma beat Oral Roberts 96-73 on Saturday.

“Buddy, especially in the second half, was active throughout, for sure,” Oklahoma coach Lon Kruger said. “That’s great. Any time we can create that activity defensively – and steals often times convert to transition points – that’s great to see.”

Hield, a preseason All-America who had been in a bit of a shooting slump, was 9 of 15 from the field to fall one point short of his career high.

Jordan Woodard scored 19 points, Isaiah Cousins had 15 and Ryan Spangler added 13 points and eight rebounds for the Sooners (7-0), who won by at least 17 points for the sixth straight game. Oklahoma shot 62 percent in the second half to beat Oral Roberts for the 15th consecutive time.

Oklahoma, which entered the game leading the nation in field goal percentage defense, held the Golden Eagles to 35 percent shooting in the second half.

“That’s our go-to,” Spangler said. “That’s what we pride ourselves on, and that’s what we’re going to keep working on. I think if we play defense and make people take tough shots, we’re going to be hard to beat.”

The Sooners were strong again after rolling past No. 9 Villanova 78-55 on Monday at Pearl Harbor. Kruger expected his team to be focused, even after such a big-time game.

“We had three good days of practice,” he said. “We got back Tuesday and didn’t practice, then went Wednesday, Thursday, Friday. With the leadership of this group, that shouldn’t be a concern. These guys know what human nature’s about and how you’ve got to bounce back and play the next game and get better every day.”

Obi Emegano scored 29 points, Kris Martin had a season-high 15 points and Brandon Conley added 10 points and 11 rebounds for Oral Roberts (8-3).

The Golden Eagles tied the score at 32 on a jumper by Emegano. The Sooners responded with an 8-0 run, capped by a 3-pointer by Cousins. Oral Roberts closed the gap again, but Hield’s 3-pointer with 6 seconds left in the first half gave the Sooners a 43-38 lead.

Oral Roberts shot 53 percent in the first half, but committed eight turnovers. Martin scored 12 points in the first half, while Emegano had 11 despite picking up two early fouls.

The Sooners opened things up early in the second half. A 3 by Woodard, then a putback by Hield pushed Oklahoma’s lead to 63-48.

Oral Roberts coach Scott Sutton said he thought his team played well against a Top Ten team.

“I didn’t want to get embarrassed, and I don’t think we did,” he said.

ON THE RISE

Woodard had never made more than three 3-pointers in a game heading into this season. He made six against Central Arkansas on Dec. 3 and four against Oral Roberts.

QUOTABLE

Woodard, on his switch from point guard to shooting guard: “I like whatever Coach has got me on the floor to do.”

STAT LINES

Oklahoma backup center Akolda Manyang had four blocks. The 7-foot center has 14 blocks in 67 minutes this season.

TIP-INS

Oral Roberts: The Golden Eagles beat intra-city rival Tulsa 70-68 last Saturday for the Mayor’s Cup. … They entered the day with just three wins all-time against Top Ten teams.

Oklahoma: Assistant coach Chris Crutchfield was an assistant at Oral Roberts from 2007 to 2011. … The Sooners had eight offensive rebounds and 11 second-chance points in the first half. … The Sooners, who led the nation in rebounds heading into Saturday, outrebounded Oral Roberts 36-35.

UP NEXT

Oral Roberts visits Missouri State on Wednesday.

Oklahoma hosts Creighton on Saturday.

Follow Cliff Brunt on Twitter (at)CliffBruntAP.

Top 25 Countdown: No. 15 Oklahoma Sooners

Buddy Hield (AP Photo)
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Buddy Hield (AP Photo)

Beginning on October 3rd and running up until November 14th, the first day of the season, College Basketball Talk will be unveiling the 2014-2015 NBCSports.com college hoops preview package. We continue our countdown today with No. 15 Oklahoma.

MORE: 2014-2015 Season Preview Coverage | NBCSports Preseason Top 25 | Preview Schedule

Head Coach: Lon Kruger

Last Season: 23-10, 12-6 Big 12 (2nd), lost in the opening round to North Dakota State

Key Losses: Cameron Clark, Je’Lon Hornbeak

Newcomers: TaShawn Thomas (transfer*), Khadeem Lattin, Dante Buford, Jamuni McNeace, Dinjiyl Walker, Bola Alade

Projected Lineup

G: Jordan Woodard, So.
G: Buddy Hield, Jr.
F: Isaiah Cousins, Jr.
F: D.J. Bennett, Sr.
C: Ryan Spangler, Jr.
Bench: TaShawn Thomas, Sr.*; Frank Booker, So.; Khadeem Lattin, Fr.; Dante Buford, Fr.; Jamuni McNeace, Fr.; Dinjiyl Walker, Jr.; Bola Alade, Fr.

They’ll be good because … : Lon Kruger has managed to assemble one of the best back courts in the Big 12, if not the country, and the star of the show will be one of the nation’s most underrated talents in Buddy Hield. A 6-foot-4 wing and native Bahamian, Hield was as improved as anyone in the conference as a sophomore, doubling his scoring output to 16.4 points, which was in large part a result of his much-improved consistency from beyond the arc. Hield developed a reputation for being an excellent defender and a hard-worker as a freshman.

While Hield was overshadowed by the incredible amount of individual talent that was in the league last season, his improvement also hid the fact that the rest of the Sooner back court was thriving. Jordan Woodard came in as a freshman and supplanted Je’Lon Hornbeak as the starting point guard. Isaiah Cousins also turned in an impressive sophomore season, becoming the third-leading scorer on the Sooners.

That trio will be able to match up with any perimeter attack in the country.

source: AP
Lon Kruger (AP Photo)

But they might disappoint because … : Oklahoma is a very, very young team, which is a good thing when it comes to their starting lineup. Hield, Woodard and Cousins all have at least one more season of eligibility remaining, yet have all played significant minutes for the Sooners since setting foot on campus. Throw in center Ryan Spangler, a double-double machine and a junior, and Oklahoma’s four best players have that ideal combination of youth and experience.

But beyond that, the Sooners are extremely young, and that’s before you factor in TaShawn Thomas (more on him in a second). The way things currently stand, sophomore guard Frank Booker will be the only reserve that saw meaningful minutes last season, and only one of Oklahoma’s newcomers is expected to be difference-makers immediately. That would be Thomas, a 6-foot-8 power forward that transferred to Oklahoma from Houston, but the problem is that Thomas has not yet been cleared to play this season. He spent three years at Houston before leaving and is waiting on word on whether or not the NCAA will be granting him a waiver.

If he does get a waiver, Thomas will become an immediate starter for the Sooners and, in all likelihood, a double-figure scorer.

Outlook: The way the power structure in the Big 12 is set up this season, there are five teams that appear to clearly be head and shoulders above the rest of the league. Now, I would be fired on the spot if I picked someone other than Kansas to win the league; that’s just how it works with Bill Self these days. But those other four really good teams — Kansas State, Texas, Oklahoma and Iowa State — are more or less a crapshoot. Anyone of them could theoretically win the league, and anyone of them could end up finishing fifth in the regular season, if not lower.

What that means is that Oklahoma could win the conference, particularly if Thomas gets his waiver to play this season. They could also find themselves finishing below a Baylor or Oklahoma State if things don’t go their way. The Big 12 is that tight at the top. What I’m sure of, however, is that this is a team capable of playing into the NCAA tournament’s second weekend. Another opening round tournament exit would be a massive disappointment.

Oklahoma guard Isaiah Cousins hit by stray bullet Tuesday night

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In 33 games last season Oklahoma guard Isaiah Cousins posted averages of 11.0 points, 4.2 rebounds and 2.1 assists per game, emerging as one of the Big 12’s most improved players as a sophomore. And despite the loss of leading scorer Cameron Clark the return of Cousins is one reason why the Sooners are expected to make another trip to the NCAA tournament in 2015.

Unfortunately Cousins’ offseason isn’t off to the best of starts, through no fault of his own. According to Will David of The Journal News, Cousins was hit in the back of his shoulder by a stray bullet on Tuesday, with the gunfire coming as a result of two warring gangs in his hometown of Mount Vernon, N.Y.

Cousins was with a group near 7 West Third Street – Levister Towers – that had nothing to do with the gang warfare, police said. The Goonies and Gunnas (the two warring gangs) were about a half block to a block away – around Third Street and Third Avenue – when one [member] fired a shot, striking the athlete.

According to the story Mount Vernon Police Commissioner Terrance Raynor expects Cousins, who was taken to the Jacobi Medical Center in the Bronx for treatment, to heal from the gunshot wound. However Raynor was not sure how the injury would impact Cousins’ basketball career.

Oklahoma head coach Lon Kruger released the following statement Wednesday afternoon:

h/t CBS Sports

Turnovers prove critical in Oklahoma’s win over No. 24 Texas

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Entering Saturday’s game at Oklahoma, No. 24 Texas ranked dead last in the Big 12 in turnover margin and eighth in assist-to-turnover ratio. Those have been areas of concern for Rick Barnes’ team, which has exceeded the preseason expectations set by many who believed the head coach was on the proverbial hot seat. And against the rival Sooners turnovers were once again an issue for Texas, which committed 16 in their 77-65 loss in Norman.

Isaiah Cousins scored 24 points and Buddy Hield added 17 for Oklahoma, which outscored Texas by 21 points (30-9) from beyond the arc. But the Longhorns were able to make up for that with their superior size, outscoring the Sooners 38-18 in the paint. Cameron Ridley accounted for 19 points and 14 rebounds, with the sophomore center proving to be a handful for the Sooner front court.

What Texas couldn’t make up were those 16 turnovers, with the Sooners making them pay on multiple occasions.

Oklahoma scored 23 points off of turnovers, outscoring the Longhorns 23-5 in that statistical category. Texas may have young guards with freshman Isaiah Taylor and sophomore Javan Felix being asked to lead the way, but against the Sooners the entire starting lineup struggled with turnovers. All five starters committed at least two turnovers with Felix committing three. By comparison Oklahoma, which ranks fourth in the Big 12 in both turnover margin and assist-to-turnover ratio, committed just seven turnovers on the afternoon.

With the victory Oklahoma completes a sweep of the season series while also adding another quality win to its resume, which will help in regards to seeding for the NCAA tournament. As for Texas they’ll also hear their name called on Selection Sunday, but if they want to play multiple games in the NCAA tournament the Longhorns must take better care of the basketball.

No. 21 Oklahoma handles Baylor, snapping two-game skid

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In road losses to Iowa State and West Virginia offense proved to be an issue for No. 21 Oklahoma despite the fact that they scored 75 points against the Cyclones and 86 against the Mountaineers. In both games the Sooners, a team with multiple scoring options, shot 40.6% from the field and they struggled from beyond the arc as well.

Against Iowa State, Oklahoma shot 8-for-26 from beyond the arc and they were even worse against West Virginia as they made just five of their 19 attempts in the overtime loss. So the task against a struggling Baylor team was simple: make more shots. And against a team currently ranked seventh in the Big 12 in defensive efficiency and ninth in field goal percentage defense (conference games only), the Sooners got back on the right track.

Oklahoma shot 53% from the field and made 14 of its 29 shots from beyond the arc and committed just eight turnovers, beating the Bears 88-72 in Norman. Isaiah Cousins led three Sooners in double figures with 21 points to go along with seven rebounds, and Oklahoma got many of the looks it wanted against the Bears. Buddy Hield, who started off the game red-hot, finished with 19 points and Cameron Clark added 16 for Lon Kruger’s team.

Obviously offense will be a key for Oklahoma moving forward, and with options such as Clark, Cousins, Hield and Jordan Woodard the Sooners have the talent needed to go basket for basket with many teams. But there’s another player whose importance should not be understated, and he didn’t score a single point against Baylor. That would be power forward Ryan Spangler, who is the one interior player who can match up with some of the more physical big men of the Big 12.

Spangler, a transfer from Gonzaga, entered Saturday averaging 11.1 points and 10.2 rebounds per contest and accounted for six rebounds and five assists against Baylor. The failure to score is an outlier for Spangler, who’s posted nine double-doubles this season. And if Oklahoma is to be successful in March Spangler will have to be effective inside, especially when considering the desire to use Clark at the four and thereby force opposing fours to match up on the perimeter.

While he didn’t score against Baylor, Spangler was solid defensively against Cory Jefferson (eight points, four rebounds). Oklahoma snapped out its two-game offensive funk on Saturday evening and that’s certainly a positive moving forward. But the way in which they deal with teams that possess physical front court talent will also be important.

Oklahoma point guard Isaiah Cousins arrested

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In the early hours of Saturday morning, Isaiah Cousins was arrested for public intoxication and interfering with a police officer, according to the Cleveland County Sheriff’s Office in Norman, OK.

Cousins, a point guard on the Oklahoma men’s basketball team, just finished his freshman year with the Sooners. He started several games early in the season, and averaged 2.7 points, 2.0 rebounds, and 1.6 assists per game.

Lon Kruger released an early statement on the matter, according to NewsOK.com:  “We’re aware of the situation involving Isaiah Cousins last night. Isaiah feels badly about the incident, will learn from it and move on. The matter will be handled internally.”

While the details of the situation are largely unknown, this is similar to what happened to Oklahoma sophomore quarterback Kendal Thompson about a month ago. According to a USA Today report:

…officers responding to a complaint about a loud party found Thompson asleep on a grass hill outside an apartment complex. Upon waking Thompson up, the officer observed that he smelled like alcohol, didn’t make sense when he spoke and attempted to walk away against the officer’s orders, according to the affidavit.

Chalk this up as college kids partying and carrying on too much, while not respecting the authorities? Most likely. But, again, the details of Cousins’ arrest are limited.

Oklahoma men’s basketball embarks on a 10-day trip to Europe in August. Will Cousins join the team on this trip? That remains to be seen as it all depends on how head coach Lon Kruger elects to punish Cousins.

You can find Kevin on twitter @KLDoyle11