With the Lon Kruger era of Sooner basketball just two games deep we've been able to catch a glimpse of his vision and the future of the program under his watch. Over the next three days Oklahoma will face their stiffest competition to this point of the season as play in the 76 Classic in Anaheim, California. First up for the Sooners are the Washington State Cougars.
After dropping their first game of the season to Gonzaga the Cougars have won two consecutive games by double figures. WSU has three players scoring in double figures, two with 17 points per game. Forward Brock Motum is third in the Pac-12 in scoring with an average of 17.7 points per game. He scored a season high 23 points against Sacramento State and a low of 13 against Portland. Guard Faisal Aden is fifth in the Pac-12 in scoring with 17 points per game. The third player in double figures is guard DaVonte Lacy who is averaging 12.3 points per game.
Motum leads the team in rebounding with 6.7 boards per game and over half of them coming on the defensive end of the field. Aden is second on the squad in rebounding with 5 a game. The next closest player on the list is forward Charlie Enquist 3.3 boards per game. No other WSU player averages more than three rebounds per game and as a team the Cougars are grabbing 27.
The Cougars aren't exceptionally strong from the free-throw line. Aden is shooting 88.9% from the charity stripe and Enquist is at 80% but only three other players are in the 70's with the rest of the team shooting below that mark.
Lacy is the player to watch on the perimeter where he's shooting 40% from three-point range. He doesn't have the highest percentage on the team but he's taken the most shots. Both Motum and Aden are 50% shooters from beyond the arch but with less shots than Lacy.
The bottom line on this game is that its the first game away from home this season for the Sooners against their best opponent thus far. However, its a very winnable game if Oklahoma does a few things.
1) Crash the boards - The 27 rebounds per game that the Cougars are grabbing isn't really that impressive and has to be an area of the game that Oklahoma exploits. Coach Kruger has been emphasizing rebounding this season and this is the game where it pays off.
2) Protect the ball - The Cougars are averaging almost 14 turnovers per game while also averaging 11 steals. That's almost a wash and the only way for Oklahoma to make them pay for the mistake of turning the ball over is to protect it themselves.
3) Push the tempo but take high percentage shots - The season is still young but WSU already has the experience of playing a Top 25 team on the road. They won't be bothered by playing away from their friendly confines of Beasley Coliseum. Oklahoma doesn't have anything close to that experience and with this being their first experience away from Norman they have to be focused on playing their game above all else.