Northwestern St.-Oklahoma Preview
The sting from Oklahoma’s first loss won’t last long for its players, but the lessons learned and experience gained could prove valuable for some time.
Eager to move forward, the No. 18 Sooners look to get back on track Sunday against visiting Northwestern State.
Coach Lon Kruger obviously wasn’t pleased that Oklahoma (1-1) blew an 18-point second-half lead in Wednesday’s 65-63 loss at Creighton, but he believes there’s plenty to gain from facing adversity against a tough opponent in a raucous, sold-out arena.
”It was a great game for us," Kruger said. "As far as learning opportunities, there are a lot of them in a game like this.
"A crowd like that, you can’t simulate that, so that part is good. The experience we’ll get from this is good.”
The Sooners held an 11-point halftime lead after Creighton shot 24.0 percent in the first 20 minutes. However, a Bluejays team that lost 2014 national player of the year Doug McDermott to the NBA went 6 of 12 from 3-point range and shot 48.4 percent from the field in the second half.
Oklahoma, which shot 35.5 percent for the night, went 5 of 10 from beyond the arc in the first half but was 3 of 14 in the second.
"We don’t mind 3s if they’re good rhythm 3s of course, but we just have to work harder to get looks that we want," said Kruger, whose team was outscored 41-21 in the final 18:09.
Junior Buddy Hield, who hit all seven 3-point attempts and finished with 25 points in the Sooners’ 78-53 victory over Southeastern Louisiana, went 3 of 7 from beyond the arc and scored a team-high 21. Teammate Ryan Spangler had 11 and pulled down 11 boards.
”This loss should bring us together even more,” Hield said. ”We can’t be comfortable with a lead. We’ll build off that and learn.”
While the experience of a frustrating defeat could prove beneficial for the Sooners from a mental capacity, they need to improve their touch after making 37.2 percent of their shots in the first two contests. That’s not an ideal start for a group that returns four of its top five scorers from a 23-win team that shot below 40 percent four times all last season.
While Sunday’s contest could provide the Sooners with a good opportunity to work on their shot selection and fine-tune some other areas, Hield and guard Isaiah Cousins should know the Sooners have little reason to take anything for granted after pulling out a 69-65 home victory over Northwestern State (2-1) in the most recent meeting Nov. 30, 2012.
Hield and Cousins combined for 14 points as Oklahoma shot 39.3 percent and needed to make three free throws in the final 17 seconds to give Kruger his 500th career victory and improve to 4-0 against the Demons.
Sophomore guard Zeek Woodley averages a team-leading 19.0 points for Northwestern State, which followed a 109-68 loss at Texas A&M with victories over NAIA schools Lyon College and LSU-Alexandria.
The Demons have lost nine straight against Top 25 teams since a 64-63 win over No. 15 Iowa in the first round of the 2006 NCAA tournament.