Oklahoma Sooners basketball: Three keys to beating the Washington Huskies


It’s once again game day for the Oklahoma Sooners men’s basketball team. This time in Las Vegas, Nevada.

No, they are not in town to play Lon Kruger’s previous squad, the UNLV Rebels. They’ll be facing the 16th-ranked Washington Huskies in the second game of a double-header inside the MGM Grand Garden Arena.

The Huskies, ranked a spot behind OU in both the AP and Coaches Top 25, are undefeated so far this season. However, OU is looking to change that Saturday night.

A few keys to this game:

1. Become the aggressor and don’t be fooled by Washington’s record.

No disrespect to the Washington Huskies, but OU and its fans should not be intimidated or freaked out by UW’s undefeated mark. It’s still very early in the 2014-15 season. To UW’s credit, they knocked off the now No. 19 San Diego State Aztecs on Dec. 7 in Seattle, but the rest of their schedule has been fairly light.

Washington has a good group, but Oklahoma should be confident heading in to this game. Vegas has OU as a six-point favorite over the Huskies, and this will not be Oklahoma’s first ranked opponent of the season.

This should be a fun, evenly-matched ball game, and one OU can run away with if they can find a rhythm on offense.

2. Win the battle in the paint.

OU has its dynamic duo in the paint, but so does Washington. Tashawn Thomas and Ryan Spangler will have their hands full guarding 7-foot center Robert Upshaw and 6-foot-9 forward Shawn Kemp, Jr., son of NBA legend Shawn Kemp.

Upshaw and Kemp have helped Washington become one of the best rebounding teams in the country thus far, and the UW offense ran by sophomore Nigel Williams-Goss will try to feed the two for high-percentage buckets.

It’s up to Spangler and Thomas to bring the same intensity those two will, but who knows at what level Thomas will play after hurting his wrist Tuesday against ORU.

3. Find the best shot possible.

We have seen it happen before, but until OU does it consistently, there is always a worry they’ll try to force bad shot attempts in order to climb back in to a game.

If Washington gets up early on OU, then you have to be nervous the Sooners will try to find their stride from the perimeter. As we have seen in the past, OU has its off nights from three-point range.

The key right here is really to play smart basketball. OU should not force anything and consider relying on an improving defense to rally in ball games if need be.

The offense usually comes to this team, but when it goes stale, it can get very bad.

Oklahoma has a lot of talent and skill not fully tapped in to yet, but maybe, guys like Thomas and Isaiah Cousins will continue to help expand this team’s scoring options. With the lineup Washington has, OU definitely can’t afford to depend on one player.

The Sooners and Huskies tip off at 8 pm CT on ESPNU.

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