The Oklahoma Sooners take to the road for the third time this season to face the Texas Longhorns on Big Monday. With the opportunity to secure a win over a rival the match up carries weight beyond just the Big XII picture. For the Longhorns, the game in Austin could mean the first win over a ranked opponent spring boarding the program to run in the league. On the other side of the equation, a win for Oklahoma legitimizes the program as a conference contender. Here are three keys to victory for the Sooners as they make the journey deep in the heart of Texas.
3 Keys To Victory
Rebound the Ball
It's no secret that Lon Kruger and company like to get out and run. Scoring points in transition has remained a strength of this team up to this point of the season but it all starts with rebounding. Ryan Spangler displays a technique few resort to in today's game by going after each ball as if it belongs to him with both hands. This simple fact allows the 6-8 junior to pull down 8.2 boards per contest to lead Oklahoma in the statistical category.
The true lift in rebounds comes from the guards crashing the boards. Look no further than the George Mason game for evidence of the stat as the shortest player on the floor, Jordan Woodard, grabbed eight of his own in thirty minutes of play. Stat stuffer Isaiah Cousins comes in at 6.3 rebounds per outing to help the Sooners reach an average of 41 total through thirteen games.
Oklahoma may face their toughest challenge of the season on the glass with the length and athleticism the Longhorns possess on the roster. Cameron Ridley is near impossible to get around assuming he positions himself underneath a rebound while blocking out the opponent. Yet, it's the 6-11 freshman in Myles Turner that poses the biggest threat. Not only will Turner out size anyone the Sooners put on the floor, he leads Texas in rebounding at 7.0 per game.
This long UT squad pulls down 44 rebounds each contest and will have hands around the rim each time a shot goes up. As far as hoping for a win, both teams can look to the glass to play a significant role in determining the outcome.
Get To The Rim
Over the course of the season, the Longhorns have allowed a mere 55 points per game. With seven rejections on average, there is no doubt that Rick Barnes has several rim protectors with the ability to change shots. The effort ranks 3rd nationally as Texas holds opponents to 33.7% shooting from the floor.
Simply put, Oklahoma must get to the rim if they hope to pull out a victory in yet another true road game. Woodard has a knack for creating and drawing a foul underneath the basket. Dinjiyl Walker possess a strength that has proven too much to handle for defender to draw a foul while finishing with the bucket. Not only will driving potentially put a few Longhorns in foul trouble but it also translates to free points. The Sooners shoot 73.4% from the charity stripe as a team. Hopefully, points from the free throw line allow OU to build a slight lead while sealing the deal in the final minutes of play.
The resurgence of the inside out game helps Oklahoma avoid lulls in scoring allowing consistent production regardless of where the points come from.
"Yeah, I think the group as a whole since the Bahamas has done a much better job of playing inside out, valuing possessions much better, moving the ball better. They like passing the ball to each other and as a result they are shooting the ball for a much better percentage in the last five or six ballgames." - Lon Kruger
Most noticeably, the inside out style of play opens things up for TaShawn Thomas to display the ability to score as well as pass. Hitting the open shooter on the perimeter leads to big time shots and momentum swings as well as a higher shooting percentage.
Inserting Isaiah Taylor back into the lineup for the Longhorns has the potential to shake things up after missing 10 games. The talented guard scored 8 points on the night of his return against Texas Tech and could be the x-factor on Big Monday.
Oklahoma 73, Texas 67