Buddy Hield, improved shot selection the keys in Oklahoma’s win over No. 22 UCLA

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Entering Wednesday’s game against No. 22 UCLA, just over 32 percent of Oklahoma’s field goal attempts came from beyond the arc on the season. Yet even with that low percentage the Sooners are primarily a jump-shooting team, which shouldn’t be much of a surprise considering the perimeter talent at Lon Kruger’s disposal.

In the first half the Sooners settled for three three-point shot far too often, forcing up challenged attempts that more often than not occurred before looking to get the ball inside by way of either an entry pass to their big men or dribble penetration. Of Oklahoma’s 34 first-half field goal attempts 22 were three-pointers, and they only made five.

While Oklahoma didn’t go away from the perimeter shot, in the second half they did do a better job of finding looks and converting UCLA miscues into points as they won by the final score of 75-66.

Buddy Hield finished the game with 24 points, scoring 17 of those in the second half and going on a personal 10-0 run that turned an eight-point deficit into a two-point lead (59-57) with 7:29 left in the game. Thirty-eight of Oklahoma’s 64 field goal attempts were three-pointers, and they only made ten. With Hield, Frank Booker, Isaiah Cousins and Jordan Woodard there’s no doubt that Oklahoma has players capable of knocking down shots.

But given their personnel, they don’t have to settle for those looks and as a result bail out the defense.

Hield is more than capable of applying pressure to opposing teams in the open floor or in the half court via dribble penetration, and big men TaShawn Thomas and Ryan Spangler are more than capable of helping out inside. While there were occasions in the second half where the ball was thrown inside and then kicked back out for a quality perimeter shot, that wasn’t the case in the first half.

Any team with aspirations of winning games and having a successful season has to do a good job of finding quality offensive opportunities, regardless of how good their “shot makers” may be. After settling for substandard looks for most of the first half Oklahoma was able to get out in the open floor in the second, with 23 of their 43 points coming by way of either UCLA turnovers (11 points) or the fast break (12).

Oklahoma’s still a work in progress (as is just about any team in the country), and offensively it’s clear that they’re still looking to figure out how they can best use Thomas’ skill set. As the Sooners continue to work towards becoming a more fluid offensive unit, they have to remain disciplined and not fall in love with the three-pointer.

There wasn’t a huge difference in the number of three-point attempts when looking at the two halves Wednesday, but there was a difference in the caliber of looks Oklahoma was able to get. That will be something Oklahoma needs to be mindful of all season long, and not just in the Bahamas this week.