The last meeting between these teams ended in a 69-60 loss for the Oklahoma Sooners. Struggles and weaknesses for Oklahoma were revealed as Bruce Weber implemented his motion offense to get Rodney McGruder and Will Spradling of the Kansas St. Wildcats open looks from beyond the arc.
Of course, McGruder is not an unfamiliar name as he led all scorers with 20 points the last time these two met. But, it is his drive and willingness to move without the ball that make him the threat that he is. Across the nation, it is tough to name a player better at moving without the ball than McGruder.
If Oklahoma and Lon Kruger intend to slow him down, close out defense will be key. Time after time, the defender was lost behind the screen as both aforementioned players continued to find a shooting rhythm. Although the Sooners outrebounded the Wildcats 39-24, Kansas St. took a 21 point advantage from beyond the arc on their way to 30 total points to Oklahoma's 9. Spradling combined with McGruder to go 7-for-15 from beyond the arc.
On the other side of the ball, the Wildcats exploited the Sooner freshmen and the inexperience at ball handling creating a substantial amount of turnovers. Those turnovers led to 26 points on the board. If Oklahoma hopes to have a shot this time, they cannot repeat this type of performance. Ball handling skills must be emphasized regardless of the situation.
That brings us to our keys to victory.
The first is simple, Oklahoma must fight through Kansas St. screens while remaining vocal on the court. Each and every time there is a screen at the top of the key, defenders will need to go over it in order to stop a 3-point attempt. In turn players like Romero Osby and Amath M'Baye will need to be ready to step up assuming the ball handler decides to drive into the lane.
The second key is to avoid contact with the shooter. Osby as well as Buddy Hield found themselves with 4 fouls a piece before the game was over. In the end, the Wildcats shot 22 free throws to Oklahoma's 15 attempts. To state the obvious there is a greater chance for points the more often a shooter finds themselves at the charity stripe.
Lastly, the Sooners must be ready for full-court as well as half-court pressure. It has proven to be the weakness of this team all season long. This time, it could cost Oklahoma a victory in the fourth quarter crushing the spirit of not only the players but also the fans.
This is a group that has come a long way since last season and I would love to continue seeing them make strides. Today is test day and hopefully this squad will pass with flying colors!