Sooner Basketball on Rebound: A Win Is a Win, but Plenty to Work on


This could be head coach Lon Kruger’s best Sooner basketball team, but they showed season-opening chinks in squeaking out a 74-68 victory over Memphis in a contest that was much closer than indicated by the final score.

The eighth-ranked Sooners trailed 74-71 with just over three minutes remaining in the game, but managed to regain the lead and hold on to pull it out in the end. Although Oklahoma was playing its season-opener on the road, this game was much tighter than it should have been given the huge experience advantage OU held over the very young, but very athletic Memphis Tigers.

No real surprise that Buddy Hield led the Sooner attack. The reigning Big 12 Player of the Year and preseason choice of the league coaches to retain that title in 2015-16 poured in a game-high 30 points, and it was Hield’s four big free throws at the end that helped close out the victory for the Sooners, their first ever in six previous tries against Memphis.

Nov 17, 2015; Memphis, TN, USA; Oklahoma Sooners guard Buddy Hield (24) shoots against Memphis Tigers guard Markel Crawford (5) and Memphis Tigers forward Shaq Goodwin (2) during the second half at FedExForum. Oklahoma Sooners defeats Memphis Tigers 84-78. Mandatory Credit: Justin Ford-USA TODAY Sports

Junior point guard Jordan Woodard drained a three-point shot from the right wing with time running out on the shot clock to stretch a one-point Sooner lead to four points with under a minute left in the game. That proved to be the deciding factor in the game.

So Oklahoma escapes with its first win of the 2015-16 season, but the Sooners clearly have a lot to work on and work out if they want to live up to the high expectations they have of themselves and that many others in college basketball have of this season’s OU men’s team.

The important thing, of course, is getting the win, but there were several problem areas on the Oklahoma side of the ledger that may be easy to overlook at this early stage of the season, but could prove to be backbreakers as well as heartbreakers when the team gets into the real meat of its schedule.

Some areas for improvement moving forward for the basketball Sooners:

  • Oklahoma’s defense suffered transition lapses throughout the game and allowed too many putbacks off of offensive rebounds and finishes at the rim.
  • Oklahoma likes to play fast and get out in transition itself, but in this game Memphis outscored the Sooners 23-16 in transition points.
  • The Sooners, a senior-laden team, at least among the starting five, committed 19 turnovers in the game to just 12 for much younger and inexperienced Memphis. Those 19 turnovers led to 22 Memphis points.
  • OU outrebounded most of its opponents last season. It’s fairly clear the Sooners miss TaShawn Thomas from last year’s front line. Rebounds were equal at 48, but Oklahoma allowed Memphis to pull down 23 boards on the offensive end.
  • The Sooners were uncharacteristically sloppy with the ball in the paint, loosing control of the ball on several offensive possessions.

Not all the news is bothersome, however. Here is some good news from the victory:

  • Oklahoma hit 11 of 26 from three-point range, led by Buddy Hield’s 4-for-8. Isaiah Cousins connected on 3-of-9 three-point shots. Overall, the Sooners shot 42 percent from three-point range and 42 percent overall from the field.
  • Ryan Spangler pulled down 12 rebounds.
  • Jordan Woodard was the Sooners’ second leading scorer with 15 points, including a big three-point shot at a critical juncture very late in the game. Woodard also had 9 rebounds.
  • OU led by one point, 42-41, at halftime.