Oklahoma Basketball on Rebound: Sooners Set Sights on Wisconsin
The degree of difficulty of the 2016-17 Oklahoma basketball schedule takes a big uptick as the calendar turns over to December.
The Sooners’ completed the first month of the season with an 87-66 victory over Northern Colorado on Tuesday, raising their record to 5-1, the lone loss coming against Northern Iowa in the Tire Pros Invitational Tournament, a game the young Sooners could and should have won.
Everyone knew Oklahoma was going to go through an adjustment period this season after losing three of four starters who had started every game for three consecutive seasons.
Last year’s starting five consisted of three seniors, a junior and a sophomore. On Tuesday night, Oklahoma went with a senior, a junior, two sophomores and a freshman at the opening tip.
“There’s not an unrealistic expectation from my perspective,” said head coach Lon Kruger in his postgame comments after Tuesday’s win. “We’ve got a lot of work to do. We need a lot of reps. Every time these guys get on the floor and get a little more comfortable and identify their role in a game situation, it’s huge for us.”
With 17th-ranked Wisconsin straight ahead on the schedule, and on the road to boot, the young Sooners’ will get a big-time reality test to see what early season progress they have made. Saturday’s matchup in Madison, Wisc., should be much different than the game in Norman a year ago between these two schools.
The game last year was won by the then 7th-ranked Sooners 65-48. This time, it is the Badgers that are the ranked team, and they become the first ranked opponent for Oklahoma this season.
With the win over Northern Colorado now , in the rear-view mirror, here are some observations from that game as the team readies for what will be its toughest test so far this season on Saturday:
Shooting percentage: After a poor shooting game in their previous game, the Sooners shot 54 percent (34 of 63) in the win over Northern Colorado. They shot better than 50 percent in both halves. Freshman Kristian Doolittle was 7 of 8 from the field for a team-high 17 points.
Sharing the scoring: Four OU players were in double figures in the scoring column against Northern Colorado: Doolittle (17), Jordan Woodard and Christian James (14 apiece) and Khadeem Lattin (10)
Three-point shooting still off the mark: A year ago, Oklahoma was one of the better three-point shooting teams in the country. The Sooners are struggling finding the range this season. For the second consecutive game, OU shot below 40 percent from behind the arc. As a team, the Sooners launched 23 three-balls vs. Northern Colorado, but connected on just eight for 34.8 percent.
Defense creating offense: For the third time in six games, the Oklahoma defense held an opponent below 40 percent shooting for the game. Northern Colorado put up eight more shots than the Sooners on Tuesday, but also made eight fewer field goals.
Putting up points in the paint: When the Sooners have played their best this season, they have held a huge advantage in points scored in the paint. Oklahoma outscored Northern Colorado 52-28 at point-blank range.
Bench scoring: Forty-one of OU’s 87 points against Northern Colorado came from non-starters off the bench.
On (to) Wisconsin…
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