Tag: Oklahoma Sooners

Oklahoma guard Buddy Hield (24) dribbles the basketball up court in the first half of an NCAA college basketball game against Harvard at the Diamond Head Classic, Friday, Dec. 25, 2015, in Honolulu. (AP Photo/Eugene Tanner)
Associated Press

No. 3 Oklahoma’s full potential on display in second-half run

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Trailing Harvard by two points at the half, No. 3 Oklahoma had some things to discuss in the locker room at the Diamond Head Classic in Honolulu Friday night. The Crimson were able to keep Lon Kruger’s team from getting out in the open floor, no small feat when considering the fact that they have one of the nation’s best perimeter attacks led by National Player of the Year candidate Buddy Hield.

Add in Zena Edosomwan’s (25 points, 16 rebounds) play in the post for Harvard, and the Sooners faced some challenges if they were to remain undefeated.

As high-level teams are expected to do in such situations Oklahoma responded, beginning the second half on a 21-0 run and taking control of a game that appeared to be in doubt. Harvard would trim that margin down to five with 4:28 remaining but the hole was too deep, as Oklahoma went on to win 83-71 to move to 11-0 on the season.

Hield, who has been even more efficient than he was in winning Big 12 Player of the Year honors as a junior, led the way with a career-high 34 points but fellow guard Jordan Woodard was impressive as well.

Woodard, who tends to be overlooked by some given the fact that Hield and Isaiah Cousins put more points on the board, scored a career-high 28 points on 9-for-13 shooting from the field. Combining with Hield, Woodard helped Oklahoma more than made up for Cousins shooting 2-for-11 and scoring seven points. Friday night represented another step forward for Woodard, who averaged 9.3 points per game as a sophomore, as a scorer not just from the points but from the percentages as well.

Last season Woodard shot just 36.1 percent from the field and 25.4 percent from three; with Hield and Cousins being able to score with greater efficiency he was the one opponents would give some slack to defensively. Opponents can’t afford to do that this season, as Woodard entered the Harvard game shooting 44.3 percent from the field and 51.3 percent from three.

That progress gives Oklahoma a larger cushion offensively on nights when another scoring option (in addition to Cousins, Ryan Spangler scored just eight points) is having an off night. The more supplementary options for Hield the better for an Oklahoma team that ranks among the nation’s best from an efficiency standpoint on both ends of the floor.

As for Hield, the “most improved” label is generally affixed to players who didn’t do a whole lot in the season prior but a case can be made for the senior from The Bahamas.

Hield’s raised his scoring average nearly seven points from a season ago (up to 24 ppg entering Friday), and he’s putting these points up in a far more efficient manner. Hield shot 11-for-14 from the field and attempted ten free throws against Harvard, making nine, and entering Friday’s game he was shooting 49 percent from the field, 52.3 percent from three and 90 percent from the foul line.

Already tough to deal with off the dribble in the open floor Hield’s improved in the half-court, and he can knock down shots at any level. To this point in the season there should be no doubt that his name belongs with the likes of Denzel Valentine, Kris Dunn and Ben Simmons (to name three) when discussing National Player of the Year candidates.

And as a team Oklahoma has the potential to be special, especially if Khadeem Lattin can continue his progress alongside Spangler in the front court. It took some time against Harvard, but in an eight-minute stretch to begin the second half the Sooners showed why they can play deep into March and maybe even early April.

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

Buddy Hield
Associated Press
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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.

PREGAME SHOOTAROUND: Top-ranked Wildcats visit UCLA

Tyler Ulis, Parker Ernsthausen
Associated Press
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GAME OF THE DAY: No. 1 Kentucky at UCLA, 9:00 p.m. (ESPN)

The Wildcats and Bruins meet at Pauley Pavilion, and hopefully this game is more competitive than last season’s matchup in Chicago. Kentucky dominated from start to finish, posting a halftime score more fitting of a college football “buy” game than a college basketball game between two of the sport’s storied programs (41-7). Many of the faces have changed for John Calipari’s team but the results remain the same to this point, although it remains to be seen how healthy sophomore point guard Tyler Ulis is (hyperextended right elbow). That, along with UCLA’s front court tandem of Tony Parker and Thomas Welsh, will be keys to keep an eye on tonight.

MID-MAJOR GAME OF THE DAY: Belmont at Valparaiso, 8:00 p.m.

Two of the top mid-major programs will meet in Valparaiso, with the Crusaders hosting the Bruins in a matchup of the preseason favorites in the OVC (Belmont) and Horizon League (Valparaiso). Bryce Drew’s Crusaders have been stingy defensively with senior Vashil Fernandez serving as the anchor, and they’ve got a number of scoring options including forward Alec Peters. That defense will need to be at its best to slow down Rick Bryd’s team, which features guard Craig Bradshaw and forward Evan Bradds.

FIVE THINGS TO WATCH FOR

1. No. 6 Oklahoma is the only other ranked team in action tonight, with the Sooners hosting Central Arkansas (8:00 p.m., ESPNU). The perimeter triumvirate of Buddy Hield, Isaiah Cousins and Jordan Woodard have played well thus far, as has senior forward Ryan Spangler. If anything, this game should give front court players such as Akolda Manyang, Jamuni McNeace and Khadeem Lattin added reps with the struggling Bears arriving in Norman with a 1-5 record.

2. USF, which has won two of its last three games after starting the season 0-4 (the lone loss to Kentucky, so no shame there), hits the road to take on Delaware. This is an important game for Orlando Antigua’s team, as their next two contests are against South Carolina and NC State. If the Bulls are to have any shot at leaving Newark with a win, they’ll need to slow down a balanced offensive attack that boasts five players averaging between 8.3 and 13.5 points per game led by forward Cazmon Haynes (13.5, 7.0 rpg).

3. UT-Arlington, which already has wins over Ohio State and Memphis to its credit and lost at Texas in overtime earlier this week, hosts North Texas in a game they should take care of. Scott Cross’s Mavericks haven’t been great when it comes to shooting the ball but they’re one of the nation’s best on the offensive glass, as they’ve rebounded 42.5 percent of their missed shots (fifth nationally). Leading the way has been forward Kevin Hervey, who’s averaging 17.3 points and ten rebounds per game.

4. Colorado State, which has won five of its first six games, hosts a tested Long Beach State team in what should be an entertaining contest. And if you like transfers this game’s loaded with them, with Nick Faust (Maryland) leading the way for the 49ers and junior college transfer Emmanuel Omogbo being one of five averaging double figures for Colorado State while also leading the team in rebounding (12.5 ppg, 8.5 rpg). CSU’s Gian Clavell has been one of the Mountain West’s most improved players thus far, averaging 21.5 points, 7.5 rebounds and 3.3 assists per game.

5. USC will look to rebound from their 1-2 weekend in Orlando by winning at UCSB. The Gauchos are led by senior guard Michael Bryson, who accounted for 23 points, five rebounds and six assists in a two-point loss at Arizona State over the weekend. He’s joined in the backcourt by John Green, who will look to bounce back from a 2-for-12 outing against the Sun Devils. USC doesn’t lack for talent on the perimeter either with Jordan McLaughlin leading the way, and forwards Nikola Jovanovic and Bennie Boatwright can score as well.

6. Louisiana and ULM meet in the Sun Belt opener for both, with the Ragin’ Cajuns pegged as the preseason favorites to win the league. Shawn Long will lead the way for the Ragin’ Cajuns, with ULM countering with its own 6-foot-10 senior big man in Majok Deng. These are two of the top offensive teams in the Sun Belt, with the Ragin’ Cajuns shooting a league-best 51.3 percent from the field and the Warhawks third in the conference at 45.5 percent. But ULM has been the better defensive team thus far, which should make for an interesting matchup.

OTHER NOTABLE GAMES

  • UMass-Lowell at LIU Brooklyn, 7:00 p.m.
  • Central Michigan at Grand Canyon, 9:00 p.m.
  • IPFW at Cal Poly, 10:00 p.m.