After a sloppy exhibition win against Washburn, the Sooners are hoping to start the season off with a decisive win over the Northwestern State Demons. The Sooners will have two home games (versus Northwestern State/Tulane) to establish their strategies and schemes for the year before flying out to Orlando where they will be more tested in the "Tire Pros Invitational." OU cannot afford to drop this one today. Here is what you should know going into their battle against the Demons:
In case you missed watching some Big 12 football yesterday, just flip on the Sooners vs. Demons game and you may get to see a similar style of game. This game has the potential of having a lot of offense with minimal defense.
Northwestern State may not typically be thought of as having a great offensive program, but Mike McConathy's teams know how to put the ball in the bucket. In the past three seasons, Northwestern State has been ranked 2nd, 1st and 34th in the nation in points per game for teams. In that same span, Oklahoma has been ranked 7th, 65th and 24th. If that is not impressive enough, in the past three seasons Northwestern State has had at least one player ranked in the top 100 for points per game for an individual player. Jalan West (injured) has been ranked 34th (2013-2014) and 20th (2014-2015),while Zeek Woodley has been ranked 2nd (2014-2015) and 12th (2015-2016). Buddy Hield is the only player from Oklahoma in the past three seasons to be ranked in the top 100 for scoring, and he was 61st (2014-2015) and 2nd (2015-2016).
The Sooners will be tested defensively this game. One aspect of the OU defense that has been exposed for a few years is not being able to stay in front of quick guards who can attack. Washburn took advantage of this somewhat, and were able to account for 28 points in the paint. If the guards for the Demons can drive to the bucket and get fouled, or find a way to draw defenders to them so they can kick it to an open teammate, then they could put up some points. However, Lon and his crew could disrupt this offense with their defense.
In Northwestern State's only game against Texas A&M, they lost 72-44 with accounting for only eight points in the paint. A key statistic in that game that OU could take advantage of is the amount of blocks Texas A&M accumulated. Texas A&M had nine total blocks against the Demons, with the 6'9" Freshman, Robert Williams, posting an impressive 5 blocks in that game. In the past two seasons, the Sooners have been ranked 23rd and 21st in the country in blocked shots. Look for OU to alter shots, and try to get into the open court to get easy transition points.
Key player to watch
Zeek Woodley. As mentioned above, Woodley has been ranked 2nd and 12th in the nation in points per game. Scoring points is impressive, but his efficiency may be even more scary. Woodley, going into his senior season, has had field goal percentages of .617, .560 and .531. To put this into perspective, Buddy Hield's best season of field goal percentage occurred in his senior season with a .501 percentage. Woodley has been able to knock down shots accurately from the outside as well. He has had 3-point field goal percentages of .417, .398 and .407. Hield only surpassed the .400 mark once from the 3-point line throughout the season in his career, and that happened his senior season with a .457 field goal percentage. Another impressive stat, according to the Northwestern State Men's basketball website, is that Woodley was the only player last season to average at least 19 points, have a 50% field goal percentage or better while making 40% of 3-pointers. He also has the ability to attack the rim and throw down some dunks. Look for the Sooners to use an array of defenders to stop him, such as Rashard Odomes, Christian James and Kristian Doolittle. With Woodley's ability to attack the basket and the threat of him knocking down jump shots, this will be the biggest threat today to OU from the Demons.
OU's depth tested
An unranked Oklahoma Sooners met and unranked Northwestern State Demons team in the 2012-2013 season. According to an ESPN recap of the game, Mike McConathy substituted the whole starting lineup out in the first five minutes. He did the same thing seven minutes after that, and helped give the Demons a 32-29 lead at half. The Sooners escaped with a 69-65 win. Was that some weird decision McConathy decided to make in a game to give his team a chance? No. In fact, this is a tactic McConathy tends to use. In that 69-65 loss, McConathy had 10 different players score. In their loss to A&M, there were 10 different players score and Northwestern State had 21 bench points. In the Sooners' victory over the Washburn Ichabods, OU gave up 29 bench points. The Sooners will need to call on their bench in order to solidify this win. One person that stood out in the exhibition game that will need to step up in this game and throughout the season is Darrion Strong.
Strong entered the game after Jordan Woodard needed to be subbed out due to cramping. In just four minutes of play, Strong accounted for eight points, with six of those points being 3-pointers. Strong showed some confidence and play-making ability that will definitely earn him more minutes if he keeps it up. Kameron McGusty is another player that should help with depth after his 12-point performance in 17 minutes of play in the exhibition. The Sooners will be without Dante Buford due to a suspension, so look for Matt Freeman to continue to split time with the Freshman Kristian Doolittle. Jamuni McNeace has shown how much energy he can exert on the court, and will be able to replace Khadeem Lattin to give the Sooners more fresh legs.
Although Northwestern State did not have a close game against the Aggies, this game could be a close one throughout the first half. However, the Sooners will be able to take home the win again, giving OU a 6-0 all-time record against the Demons. Look for Jordan Woodard to bounce back after only scoring seven points in the exhibition game, grabbing seven boards and not dishing any assists. Christian James will continue to contribute all over the court. Watch to see if the Sooners can improve defensively, and have an overall more solid game than the exhibition.
OU- 81 NWSU- 65