The Oklahoma Sooners have continued to improve defensively outputting one of their best performances in over a decade. Heading to the Bahamas the potential for a 1-2 record in the Battle 4 Atlantis remained a possibility against a stacked field. However, Buddy Hield and the rest of the squad remain unbeaten after bouncing the Bulter Bulldogs 59-46 to advance to the championship round.
"Our guys' awareness defensively was as good as it's been all year," Kruger said. "We really had five guys working together, which is what you're supposed to do on the defensive end."
In the opening round of play, the Butler Bulldogs displayed the ability to compete with anyone in the country. However, it also opened Lon Kruger's eyes to the rebounding capability of the Bulldogs as well as the style of play from shooter Kellen Dunham. With less than 24 hours to prepare, Oklahoma planned to extend the floor on offense effectively limiting offensive rebounds for the opponent. Defensively, the Sooners continuously switched on every screen removing any space the shooter had hoped for.
The effort produced a +9 rebounding margin while the Bulldogs were held to 23.7% shooting from the field. Yet, that didn't stop Dunham from pouring in a game high 17 points on the afternoon.
With the game tied at 8, Oklahoma pulled away on a 16-0 run with 8:23 to go in the first half. Scoreless for nearly eight minutes of play, Butler connected on a free throw to end the drought. However, it could not have prepared a struggling offense for what was in store in the second half.
"We couldn't make shots," Andrew Chrabascz said. "If a couple more shots went in, it could have been a completely different game."
Slowly closing the gap to single digits after trailing by 17, the Bulldogs ran into another wall. This time, not a single player could find the bottom of the net for roughly another 8 minutes and 30 seconds. From there Isaiah Cousins took charge scoring seven of his 13 points to extend Oklahoma's lead back to 17 points with 9:46 left in regulation.