OU Hoops: Sooners host the Ohio Bobcats as conference play nears


Dec 18, 2012; Norman, OK, USA; Oklahoma Sooners guard Je

Following a tough loss to Stephen F. Austin, the Sooners must have a bad taste in their mouth. This is a team trying to compete in March, and a setback to the Lumberjacks offers motivation to an Oklahoma team still trying to prove themselves worthy of “being back.”

Oklahoma’s out-of-conference schedule is drawing to a close with only the Ohio Bobcats and Texas A&M-Corpus Christi Islanders remaining. The 7-3 Sooners will look to build some momentum toward the beginning of conference play starting with Ohio tonight.

The biggest challenge for Oklahoma against SFA was being effective on offense, but the Lumberjacks are a strong defensive team. They know how to limit their opponent, and they did an excellent job of holding the Sooners to just 55 points in Norman. Thankfully, Lon Kruger’s squad will see a different ball club enter the Lloyd Noble Center Saturday night.

The Sooners will get an Ohio Bobcats team that is capable of creating opportunities on offense and putting the ball in the basket. The Bobcats rank fifth in the country in assists per game and shoot 47.4% from the floor.

Ohio can thank D.J. Cooper for much of their offensive success. The senior guard leads the team in both points and assists, averaging 14.3 points and 7.9 assists this season. Cooper is coming off a 14 assist performance against Maryland-Eastern Shore, a season-high, and will be a test for Oklahoma’s backcourt.

Oklahoma’s advantage in this game may be their size. The Bobcats rank 312th nationally in rebounds per game, while Oklahoma cracks the top 100 at 97th. Though, Amath M’Baye has to step up his game. M’Baye has been in a funk as of late, and a game against an undersized Bobcat front court could be a good way for M’Baye to bounce back.

The big challenge for the Sooners will be their ability to stay on pace with the Bobcats. Against the Arkansas Razorbacks, Kruger’s team was forced to shoot their way back in to the game. Fortunately, they will be at home in Norman and will look to fare better than they did against the Hogs in Fayetteville.

Anyway, expect points to be scored. Ohio started the season routing their competition and finished November unbeaten. However, December has not been as kind. The Bobcats experienced road losses to Robert Morris and Memphis to begin the month, then suffered another loss to Winthrop two weeks ago and a road loss to Massachusetts last Saturday.

The Sooners and Bobcats are both in a simliar position trying to gain some momentum after a tough month, and a win for either team would be a confidence boost to close out the calendar year. Tip-off is scheduled for 7 p.m. and will be televised on Fox Sports Plus.