In their first match up of the season, the Oklahoma Sooners owned Bedlam posting an 82-65 win over in-state rival the Oklahoma State Cowboys. Of course, the romping took place in Norman and now Phil Forte and the rest of the crew are looking for revenge. The action shifts to a loud Gallagher Iba Arena in Stillwater. However, if the Cowboys hope to win, there are three questions they must answer.
Can Anyone Contain Buddy Hield?
Currently the only player to average above 20 points per contest in conference play, Buddy Hield (20.6 ppg) remains the focus of any and all defenses. On January 17th, the junior gaurd poured in 27 points without missing a shot from the floor (10-10 FG, 4-4 3PFG). In reality, no one expects Hield to achieve perfection once again but it still begs the question, who can contain him?
Undoubtedly the Bahamas native leads this team vocally and sets the level of intensity for all others to follow. If an opposing team can rattle him early or send him to the bench in foul trouble, Oklahoma instantly loses their most consistent scoring option. The move forces another Sooner to pick up the slack and could ultimately lead to defeat.
When Phil Forte Fails To Find An Opening, Will Anyone Else Step Up?
Underneath the basket, Oklahoma St. possesses two of the better post players in Le'Bryan Nash and Michael Cobbins. With those positions accounted for, where does the scoring come from around the perimeter? Phil Forte leads the team in scoring with 17.4 points per outing. Unfortunately the next guard up, Anthony Hickey, averages 8.5 which pales in comparison.
I fully expect the Sooners to continuously switch on screens around the perimeter asking the post players to hedge at the top of the key leaving Forte with little to no room. If the sharp shooter fails to find an opening, can Hickey elevate his level of play to pick up the slack?
Can The Defense Hold Oklahoma Under Their Season Average?
The Cowboys lay claim to the top scoring defense when play conference foes. Allowing a mere 59.5 points per game their in-state rival blew by that number posting 82 points before the final buzzer two weeks ago. Currently, the Sooners are putting up 71.2 each time out on the floor. Regardless, OSU cannot allow their in-state rival to jump out to a quick start and eventually eclipse the 70 point mark if they hope to win.