Oklahoma is coming off their first loss of the season against what appeared to be a solid St. Louis team in the 76 Classic Championship Game. Now, St. Louis has lost to Loyola Marymount none the less, but will that play into the Sooners' psyche? Tonight Oklahoma hosts Sacramento St. in Norman as part of a three game home stand before playing Houston at a neutral site. So what should Sooner fans be on the lookout for?
Sacramento St. plays in the Big Sky conference is and currently sitting at 3-3. While they seemed to be able to win early on, the Hornets have been on a slide as they bring a two-game losing streak into Norman. While this challenge will be a far cry from Oklahoma's toughest up to this point there is still a glaring problem...Calvin Newell is no longer with the team.
Newell was the second leading scorer with 13 ppg behind Steven Pledger's 17.8 ppg. Someone will need to pick up the slack and it will hopefully be Cam Clark. Clark came on strong last season as a true freshman and was expected to do great things this season. He was even labeled as the next star for this Oklahoma squad. Cade Davis graduated leaving a huge hole in scoring to be filled. Now that hole has to be filled once again. On top of that, where will the bench scoring come from? Lon Kruger likes to play a deeper bench than what Jeff Capel did and it makes a difference toward the end of the second half. However, Newell was the only bench player coming in who had proven that he could score and score often.
Lucky for OU, Sacramento St. is a terrible rebounding team. Kruger's offense is heavily dependent upon strong rebounding and the Sooners average 42.8 a game compared to CSUS who averages a mere 33.7 a game. The Hornets will run their offense through two players: Joe Eberhard a 6-6 hybrid who can play the guard or forward spot and John Dickson another 6-6 tweener hybrid. Both are averaging just over 12 ppg and if the Sooners focus on these two, the game will go down as a win.
Yet while CSUS isn't a great rebounding team, they average only 12 turnovers a game to 4 steals a game. Look for this game to be low in the number of turnovers as well as steals.
There is a pretty simple game plan as the Sooners take on the Hornets. The first thing is that Oklahoma must crash the boards. While being undersized at the 4 and 5, Oklahoma still ranks in the top 5 in rebounding. If OU successfully continues this pace and gets out in the transition game, the Hornets will have a hard time keeping up. Second is that without Newell as an option, everything must go through Steven Pledger's hands. He is the scorer on this team and will need as many touches as possible until a second option has been established. Lastly, OU must attack the rim early and often as they are the better FT shooting team this go around. However, the flip side to this is not getting into foul trouble by committing offensive fouls trying to get to the rim. We are already low on scoring options and to take away...say...Romero Osby, now not only does our scoring suffer but our rebounding suffers.