Oklahoma's men's basketball is gunning for their ninth win of the season tonight against an opponent that by all accounts should be inferior. Of course that doesn't always translate into a win and the Sooners will need to make sure that they play their game of fast paced, board crashing, in your face defense, scoring in transition basketball. If they can accomplish that then they should walk out of the gym with a comfortable win.
South Carolina State is limping into Norman on a five game losing streak that dates back to November 29th. They are also in the midst of a seven game road trip that hasn't shown them any love at all. During the losing streak they are dropping games by an average score of 83-63. Their overall season record is 4-7 with an 0-1 mark in conference.
SCS is led in scoring by senior G/F Brandon Riley who is dropping off 21 points and grabbing 5 rebounds per game. He's joined by Khalif Toombs (12 PPG) and Omar Sanders (10.8 PPG) as the three players who average scoring in double figures.
Both Riley and Toombs are dangerous from three-point range. They are both shooting 43% from beyond the arch which is three percentage points better than the 40% the team is shooting from the floor. Knowing that the Bulldogs miss six out of every ten shots puts a huge emphasis on rebounding and the Sooners are going to have to be strong on the boards once again. SCS averages 37 rebounds per game which is just three behind the 40 Oklahoma is bringing down. As in every game, the Sooners must control the boards.
Putting the Bulldogs on the line is going to hurt you but it won't kill you. SCS is only shooting 63% from the free throw line as a team with Toombs and Aaron Martin being the only players shooting above 70%. Beyond that they have two players shooting in the 60's and everyone else is below 60%.
An area that Oklahoma should be able to take advantage of is turnovers. The Bulldogs are averaging 16 giveaways per game while only logging 7 steals. Oklahoma's pressure defense should force a lot of turnovers and the Sooners have to turn those into points.
This is a game that Oklahoma absolutely has to win. The opportunity to get to 12 wins before conference play begins is on the table and this game is key. Oklahoma's first true road test follows this game when they travel to Cincinnati next week and then they are home again on New Year's Eve to play Northwestern State. Reaching Twelve wins before conference play begins is huge towards building a post-season resume.