Defense still lacking as Sooners fall to Jayhawks

Somewhere on the highway that leads to Oklahoma’s basketball ascension, the Sooners are going to have slow down and learn to play some defense.

Simple as that. Easy to understand. Effortless to comprehend. But it sure seems hard for Oklahoma to do.

Figure it out, heck, just make some minor improvement and this Sooner team becomes dangerously fun to watch.

The Sooners are up-tempo and fast. They shoot it often and they shoot it well. They’re not ever going to be out of games because they have enough scorers who can do enough positive things. It makes them a feast for the senses and good enough to keep up with a team like Kansas, that sports a pair of lottery picks and long history of success.

And that’s pretty much exactly what happened  Wednesday night against Kansas in a 90-83 loss inside the Lloyd Noble Center, and that’s likely going to be the story the rest of the season.

Great on offense. Umm, a case of, "Not Exactly" on defense.

"We’ve been pretty consistent," Oklahoma coach Lon Kruger said. "It would be better if we were getting stops on the other end. We’ve got to figure out something different defensively."

Kansas shot 64 percent in the first half, 54.7 percent for the game an made 8-of-16 3-pointers. Meanwhile, the Jayhawks out-rebounded OU 36-22.

So when the Sooners’ Cam Clark goes off for 32 points in 29 minutes and the Sooners manage a decent 45.5 percent shooting night, it gets overlooked. Twice this season Clark has scored 30 or more. OU is 0-2 in those games, allowing 87 points to Michigan State and then the 90 against Kansas Wednesday.

Hey, OU is 12-3. The Sooners have won a game at Texas to open league play. They are a likely NCAA Tournament team out of a tough, Big 12 Conference. Oklahoma averages 87.3 points per game which is good for fifth nationally. More? The Sooners have scored 100 points twice this year after doing it only once in the previous eight seasons.

All that is great for fans and great news for team morale. If you need points, you can get points, but the problem is the Sooners will never be able to distance themselves from average teams and will certainly have a time beating good teams, thanks to a leaky defense.

"We didn’t guard the ball very well," Kruger said, in what has to be a reusable quote." l am not pleased with what we did defensively.

No kidding. OU ranks 312th in the nation, below Morgan State and Florida A&M, in scoring defense at more than 78 points per game. KU got to 78 points with more than 6 minutes left.

So, sure it would be nice to say it was Kansas and its name and players who should be credited for going off against the Sooners, it would be a bit misleading. Everyone does it against OU. Tulsa scored 91. UT Arlington had 89. Louisiana Tech went for 102 against the Sooners on Dec. 30.

"It’s very frustrating," OU’s Clark said. "It all starts on defense. We have to come together as a group. We played in spurts. We’ve been talking about that all year. We have to change that. We were able to score but we couldn’t get stops."

What it amounts to is all of the offense is leading to missed opportunities. Make only slight improvements on defense and the missed chances turn into wins.

Iowa State comes to town next. No doubt the Sooners will be able to score – ask Kansas coach Bill Self, who said, "They can score about as well as any team we’ve played this year."

But will OU put up any amount of resistance defensively?

Follow Andrew Gilman on Twitter: @andrewgilmanOK