Oklahoma men's basketball coach Jeff Capel started a bit of a different lineup Thursday night when his Sooners took the floor against Gardner-Webb. With forward Nick Thompson unavailable, due to the death of his grandmother, Capel went with the four guard of Steven Pledger, Calvin Newell, Cameron Clark, Cade Davis and Andrew Fitzgerald at forward. The result was better care of the ball (only 10 turnovers), a higher free throw percentage (82.4%) and, most importantly, a 71-58 win.
Oklahoma never trailed in the game and played with a defensive intensity that had been absent in recent losses. The Sooners' smaller lineup forced 16 turnovers, scoring 18 points off them. It seemed to me that the tough road schedule, along with the games in Hawaii, has toughened this team to the point where the non-conference games they were struggling with early on in the season have finally become the blowouts they should have been.
I think the thing that I was most impressed with was the rebounding and points in the paint stats. Capel had six guys play 15 minutes or more and of them five were guards. That makes the fact that OU matched Gardner-Webb in rebounds (28/28) and outscored the Bulldogs (22-14) in the paint.
Before we are too quick to write this win off as just being Gardner-Webb let's keep two things in mind. This is a program that has given some of basketball's elite fits, just ask Blake Griffin or the Kentucky Wildcats. Also, let's not forget that less than a month ago this OU basketball team had to go into overtime to beat North Carolina Central. Yeah, I'd say there's been a bit of improvement.