Oklahoma Sooners

HOUSTON, TEXAS - APRIL 02:  Jordan Woodard #10 of the Oklahoma Sooners reacts in the second half against the Villanova Wildcats during the NCAA Men's Final Four Semifinal at NRG Stadium on April 2, 2016 in Houston, Texas.  (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)
Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

VIDEO: Woodard game-winner topples No. 7 West Virginia

Leave a comment

Welcome back, Jordan Woodard.

The Oklahoma senior, playing in his just third game back from injury, went coast-to-coast to hit a game-winning shot with under 3 seconds to play against West Virginia to give the Sooners an 89-87 victory in overtime.

The Sooners had just 12 turnovers against Press Virginia while shooting 49 percent from the field. Woodard had a chance to win the game in regulation for Oklahoma after he made a shot and was fouled, but the 86.7 percent free-throw shooter missed the shot from the charity stripe. He finished with 20 points.

West Virginia, which was ranked No. 1 by KenPom, shot 43.7 percent overall and 28 percent from 3-point range.

It may be just one loss, but it can only be considered a significant setback for the Mountaineers in their quest to finally be the team to end Kansas’ 12 year run at the top of the Big 12. Not only is losing a home game a blow, but losing one to a team the Jayhawks have already beaten in Allen Fieldhouse is a double-whammy.

West Virginia is now two games out of first place, and still has two games remaining against Kansas, which is either good news or bad news, depending on how you look at it. The Mountaineers will have to sweep the Jayhawks, steal a different one they aren’t expected to on the road or hope Kansas falters like they really haven’t in over a decade.

Yeah, there’s a lot of season left, but you don’t want the math and probability to work against you like it does with a loss like this. That is unless Oklahoma isn’t the same team it’s been through the first third of the Big 12 season, which lessens the blow some. Let’s investigate that.

Oklahoma was largely able to win this game based on its ball security. The Sooners only coughed it up  on 14.6 percent of their possessions. West Virginia has been forcing turnovers at around a 25-percent clip in Big 12 play. Woodard presence made a huge difference there (even if he had five turnovers), and Oklahoma is now 2-1 with only a loss to Kansas since his return.

Are the Sooners still one of the Big 12’s weakest teams or does Woodard make them a serious contender amid the second tier of the league? If it’s the latter, a recalibration of expectations is probably in order for a conference already considered one of the most difficult give its 10-team, round-robin format.

Mason scores 28 as No. 2 Kansas beats Oklahoma 81-70

Oklahoma forward Kristian Doolittle (11) has his shot blocked as Kansas forward Landen Lucas, rear, and guard Josh Jackson (11) defend during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game in Norman, Okla., Tuesday, Jan. 10, 2017. (AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki)
AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki
Leave a comment

NORMAN, Okla. (AP) — Ready or not, Kansas is poised to jump to No. 1.

Frank Mason scored 19 of his 28 points in the second half, and the second-ranked Jayhawks rallied to beat Oklahoma 81-70 on Tuesday.

With No. 1 Baylor losing at West Virginia earlier in the night, Kansas will be in position to top the AP poll for the first time this season if it beats Oklahoma State on Saturday.

“We don’t deserve that,” Kansas coach Bill Self said. “I’ve coached for a while, and I’ve felt like there’s some teams that put in the time and the effort and the toughness to earn that, but I don’t feel like this team quite has.”

Josh Jackson scored 16 points for the Jayhawks (15-1, 4-0 Big 12), who have won 15 straight. Devonte’ Graham added 13 and Landen Lucas had 10 points and 13 rebounds.

Rashard Odomes and Kameron McGusty each scored 13 points for the Sooners (6-9, 0-4), who lost their seventh in a row.

Oklahoma trailed 21-14 before closing the first half on a 22-6 run to take a 36-27 lead at the break. Oklahoma coach Lon Kruger called it his team’s best half of the season.

“Given the opponent, certainly, no question,” he said. “Kansas is a terrific ballclub. To be down a little bit early and come back and tie it and take the lead into the half was a good stretch, a very good stretch.”

Mason said Self was fired up at halftime.

“I can’t tell you the message, but it was — I can’t even say it,” he said. “Coach got onto us. I think we responded pretty well as a team. We’ve just got to come out better to start the game off the first half.”

Kansas took control and pushed its lead out to 15 in the second half behind Mason, who made 7 of 12 shots after the break.

“He’s terrific, just an outstanding player,” Kruger said. “He’s a winner. He takes things on his shoulders. He makes teammates around him better. He makes big-time plays in tough parts of games. Just an outstanding player.”

BIG PICTURE

Kansas: The Jayhawks took sole possession of the Big 12 lead and maintained their series dominance over the Sooners, winning for the 16th time in the past 18 meetings.

Oklahoma: The Sooners were buoyed by scoring leader Jordan Woodard’s return from a leg injury. Oklahoma lost all four games without the senior guard, who had started 115 straight games before getting hurt. Woodard entered the night averaging 17.6 points. He finished with seven points in 24 minutes, and the Sooners played much better once he took the floor as a substitute.

“I really didn’t expect him to play that many minutes,” Kruger said. “I thought he got tired a couple of times, naturally, and got out. But I thought overall he was very, very good.”

STAT LINES

Kansas made 9 of 16 3-pointers in the second half and 12 of 27 overall. The Jayhawks shot 34 percent overall in the first half and 46 percent in the second. … It was Self’s 400th win at Kansas.

TURNING POINT

Oklahoma led by nine at halftime, but the Jayhawks opened the second half on a 13-0 run. A 3-pointer by Mason put Kansas up 56-47, and the Jayhawks maintained control from there.

STAR POWER

Oklahoma City Thunder general manager Sam Presti and Thunder forward Nick Collison attended the game.

UP NEXT

Kansas hosts Oklahoma State on Saturday. The Cowboys pushed Baylor last Saturday before dropping a 61-57 decision in Waco.

Oklahoma hosts Texas Tech on Saturday. The Red Raiders have wins over current No. 10 West Virginia and No. 25 Kansas State to their credit.

Nigel Hayes’ 28 points, six assists paces No. 17 Wisconsin past Oklahoma

MADISON, WI - DECEMBER 03:  Nigel Hayes #10 of the Wisconsin Badgers is defended by Kristian Doolittle #11 of the Oklahoma Sooners during the first half of a game at the Kohl Center on December 3, 2016 in Madison, Wisconsin.  (Photo by Stacy Revere/Getty Images)
Stacy Revere/Getty Images
Leave a comment

MADISON, Wis. (AP) Wisconsin coach Greg Gard says what makes Nigel Hayes and the Badgers play at their best is one in the same – how far the 6-foot-8 forward is from the basket.

And with Hayes working largely from 18 feet and in, he scored a season-high 28 points Saturday as No. 17 Wisconsin shook off a slow start and blew past Oklahoma 90-70.

“The further he gets from the basket, the more the hard match-up scenarios level off or dissipate,” Gard said.

Gard said what impressed him most about Hayes was he shot 13 free throws, hitting 10, and didn’t turn the ball over once while dishing out six assists. Most of those assists were at the rim as the defense collapsed, opening up outside shots.

Hayes said he’s just taking what the defense gives him.

“It’s just a matter of me staying consistent, staying confident in myself with the work I put in, whether it’s inside or outside, just going with that mindset that no one can guard me,” said Hayes, who took only two 3-point attempts and made both.

The Badgers (7-2) trailed Oklahoma (5-2) the entire first half as they struggled to guard dribble handoffs that gave the Sooners momentum while attacking the rim. But once the Badgers cleaned that up and found their shooting touch, they pulled away.

Wisconsin was 4 of 13 from behind the arc in the first half, and Rashard Odomes put Oklahoma up 58-57 with a 12-footer 8 minutes into the second half. But Bronson Koenig of the Badgers answered with a 3 that started a 20-3 run to put the game away.

The Badgers connected on 8 of 14 3-point attempts in the second half, including three in their decisive run.

Koenig, Ethan Happ and D’Mitrik Trice all scored 16 points for Wisconsin.

Oklahoma committed 16 turnovers, eight in each half. But the Sooners were able to overcome that in the first half by hitting 5 of 8 from behind the 3-point line. Those shots stopped falling in the second half as they went 1 of 6, and coach Lon Kruger said the Sooners didn’t find a way to answer as Wisconsin’s confidence shot up in their final run.

Odomes led Oklahoma with 17 points.

“Some of it was certainly our doing. Some of it was Wisconsin making a good play,” Kruger said of the 20-3 run. “Those opportunities are what we have to learn from and certainly do a better job.”

BIG PICTURE

Oklahoma: It was the first true road game and first against a ranked opponent for a squad that has 11 underclassmen on the roster. But the Sooners didn’t come out intimidated and built an eight-point lead in the first half. Still, they contributed to that decisive Wisconsin run with six turnovers over the 5-minute run. They haven’t beaten a ranked non-conference team in a true road game since 1989.

Wisconsin: When the Badgers have an inside and outside game working together, they can put on a display. Struggling from outside in the first half, they were outscored 40-37. Hitting from the 3-point line, they outscored Oklahoma 53-30 in the second half.

FALSE ALARM

Midway through the first half, the Kohl Center’s firm alarm went off, triggering a recorded message there was an “abnormal condition” in the building and urging everyone to exit. The game continued with the alarm still going off, including as Hayes went to the free throw line and hit 1 of 2. The alarm eventually stopped, and the public address announcer said there was no emergency in the building.

POLL IMPLICATIONS

That’s consecutive wins for Wisconsin over teams from Power Five conferences, which should provide a boost to the Badgers, who dropped a spot in the poll last week after losing to North Carolina 71-56 in Hawaii.

UP NEXT

Oklahoma: On Wednesday, the Sooners host Oral Roberts, who they have beaten 14 straight times.

Wisconsin: The Badgers host Idaho State on Wednesday.

Top-25 guard trims list to six

Trae Young , Brace Hemmelgarn/Getty Images
2 Comments

One of the top points guards in the Class of 2017 has trimmed his list of potential collegiate destinations to six.

Trae Young, a consensus top-25 recruit, listed Texas Tech, Kansas, Oklahoma, Washington, Oklahoma State and Kentucky as the schools he is considering as he readies to begin his senior year of high school.

The list of the 6-foot-2 point guard is largely provincial as it includes Oklahoma, whose campus is just minutes away from Young’s Norman North High School, and fellow in-state school Oklahoma. Another pair of Big 12 schools make the list in powerhouse Kansas and the Red Raiders, whose first-year coach, Chris Beard, has spent the bulk of his career working in Texas. Texas Tech is also Young’s father’s alma mater. Washington has been on a role sending its players to the pros and recently received the commitment of top-five 2017 recruit Michael Porter, Jr.

Kentucky, of course, needs no explanation as to its attractiveness to high-level players.

Report: Oklahoma’s Grandstaff to transfer

MIAMI, FL - NOVEMBER 27: Avery Woodson #3 of the Memphis Tigers defends against Austin Grandstaff #3 of the Ohio State Buckeyes on November 27, 2015 at the American Airlines Arena in Miami, Florida. Memphis defeated Ohio State 81-76 in overtime. (Photo by Joel Auerbach/Getty Images)
Leave a comment

Oklahoma shooting guard Austin Grandstaff intends to transfer, Jerry Meyer of 247Sports reports.

The reported departure means Grandstaff could be headed to his third school in two years as he started his freshman season of 2015-16 at Ohio State before leaving at the end of the first semester to join the Sooners. All that came after he decommitted from Oklahoma State in 2014.

Grandstaff, who played just 115 minutes for the Buckeyes, was one of the top players of the 2015 class coming out of Rockwall (Texas) High School outside of Dallas playing on the grassroots circuit for Team Texas Elite, which is run by his father Wes Grandstaff.

The 6-foot-4 guard had a reputation as one of the top high school shooters in the country after running through the EYBL, and he’ll likely have plenty of suitors lining up for his services once again, but there are certainly a host of concerns about a player who will be pledging to his fourth school and potentially attending his third in such a short amount of time.

He’s also looking at the possibility of having to sit out a season after another transfer, which means he’ll have played one semester of basketball in two years. It’s a far cry from the start of his collegiate career Grandstaff – and Oklahoma State, Ohio State and Oklahoma – likely envisioned.

For the Sooners, it means one less weapon as they look to reload from last year’s Final Four team, though Lon Kruger’s squad isn’t likely to suffer any sort of significant slide, with or without a sophomore shooting guard.

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

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
Leave a comment

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.