For the second time this season Oklahoma Sooner fans witnessed a change to the starting five. The first time around it was Cameron Clark being inserted as a starter against the Texas A&M Aggies and the result was a win. This time, it was a different move as Buddy Hield received the start and the Sooners were treated to the same result, a victory over the Ohio Bobcats.
However, the bigger story here is that Amath M'Baye, a player with a high ceiling, seemed to come back to life in this game. After attempting a mere 5 total shots for 3 points to go with 4 rebounds in the past two outings, M'Baye tallied up with 16 points in just 22 minutes of playing time. At this point, it may very easily be stated that he has awaken from his slumber and broken the slump.
M'Baye combined with Steven Pledger (game high 18 points) and Romero Osby (16 points and perfect from the free throw line) for 50 of Oklahoma's 74 points on the night. While the Sooners shot a poor 30.3% from the floor in the first half, things quickly turned around to start the second half.
"When you make shots, everything's going to seem better. But it was. I thought we had better movement, I thought we came off of picks a little bit crisper and sharper and jumped into shots with good rhythm," coach Lon Kruger said. "And then, of course, some transition opportunities help the percentage, too."
Oklahoma would shoot and unheard of 70.8% from the field, marking the best half of basketball the Sooners have played all season long. It is tough to beat a team that is firing on all cylinders even if for just a single half of play.
For the Ohio Bobcats, turnovers and man-to-man defense revealed themselves as pivotal. The Bobcats committed 18 turnovers marking a tie for their worst outing in the category this season and leading to 22 Oklahoma points. It was evident that the departure of former Head Coach John Groce to the Fighting Illini has taken it's toll. This is a team still trying to find their identity under former TCU Horned Frogs coach and first year Head Coach at Ohio, Jim Christian.
Ohio players had were getting their numbers led by none other than D.J. Cooper yet again. Cooper finished the game with 14 points and 7 assists. The only other player averaging double digit scoring is Walter Offutt who added 11 points of his own. Outside of these two, Reggie Keely was the only major factor as he contributed 13 points. Yet, offensively the Bobcats struggled from range on 8-of-26 from three point land.
"It was a good win over a good ball club. Ohio is really solid and (head coach) Jim Christian does a good job with them, so I feel real good about the stretch we played in the second half. I thought it was as good as we've had all year on both ends of the floor. In the second half we got off to a great start. Everyone was kicking in, starting with (Steven) Pledger making shots early and picked everyone else up. They all responded in a good way. A lot of good activity defensively as well. They're a ball club that spreads you out and is tough to guard. Our guys, as a unit, had good communication and reacted well to one another."
Oklahoma is certainly moving in the right direction with just a single game left against Texas A&M Corpus Christie before conference play starts up. This game will be part of the Fieldhouse Series and will be held on Monday, Decemeber 31st.