During the opening minutes of the first half, the Oklahoma Sooners shot lights out from the field. On 9-of-10 shooting, Lon Kruger and company took an early 22-11 lead over the No. 1 team in the land, the Michigan St. Spartans. However, the final nine minutes of the half played out much differently as MSU enforced their style of basketball.
Tom Izzo and his squad began to live up to their billing behind a 34-9 run to close out the half with a commanding 14 point lead. The spark was ignited by Denzel Valentine with spinning assists that led to easy buckets for his teammates. With the offensive production increasing, the defense stepped up as well forcing their opponent into uncomfortable situations.
I'm proud of our guys. Michigan State is the type of ballclub that can do that to you. If they get you going sideways a little bit, it's kinda hard to getting running back in the right direction. - Lon Kruger
Oklahoma began to regain their stride in the second half, cutting the lead to four points with 12:03 remaining in regulation. It would appear that a repeat of the previous night was in store for the Barclays Center. Unfortunately, lighting doesn't strike the same place twice as Sparty prevailed 87-76 to take the Coaches Vs Cancer Classic Championship.
There is no question that the Oklahoma Sooners present a unique challenge for any team. Four of the five starters have the ability to create shots for themselves, a rarity on the collegiate level. It is because of this unique combination of talent that Lon Kruger and his squad will surprise many teams left on the schedule as evidenced by going toe-to-toe with the top ranked team in the nation.
One area that needed to improve has been free throws. When the time came, Oklahoma stepped up to the challenge connecting on 73% of their attempts as a team. Lacking consistency from the charity stripe in the past, this outing was a welcomed sight.
When trailing, the Sooners quickly became exposed as a team without an efficient half court offense. When the going gets rough, OU turned toward the isolation game as ball movement suffered. The half court offense is most definitely not the strength of this team. As conference play edges closer, a few of the more athletic programs will likely key into this nuance in order to gain an edge.
Once again, bench scoring disappeared. After a few strong performances by Tyler Neal, the Sooner bench went ice cold scoring a single point throughout the duration of the game.
Oklahoma Sooners: Cameron Clark jumped out to quick start on a career night. Hitting the first five of his shots, Clark single-handedly led the Sooners to their 11 point lead. He would finish the game with a career high 32 points to go alongside 7 rebounds. At this point, I'd be surprised if he didn't make the All-Tournament Team.
Oklahoma had two other scorers hit double-digits as Isaiah Cousins poured in 15. The other was Buddy Hield who added another 13 after fighting a migraine that nearly took him out of the contest.
Michigan St. Spartans: When push came to shove, Keith Appling took over. Constantly finding himself at the charity stripe, this budding star netted 27 points.
Gary Harris showed signs of fatigue as it was the first time this season both teams played on back to back nights. Regardless, the Preseason Big 10 Player of the Year found the bottom of the net for 21 points while Braden Dawson dumped in another 18.
The Oklahoma Sooners take on Arkansas Little Rock on November 29th.