After a heartbreaking meltdown in the second half against the Northern Iowa Panthers, the Sooners find themselves playing for third place against the Clemson Tigers. The game will tip off at 4 PM CT and be broadcast on ESPNU.
Oklahoma displayed some of their best potential in that game, solidifying an 18-point lead. However, a drought of over 11 minutes in the second half with no field goals left the Panthers an open door to make an incredible comeback and seal the win in extra time. OU looks to avoid dropping another loss today, and string together a more consistent game against the Tigers. Here's what you need to know going into the matchup.
From a statistic perspective, the Clemson Tigers are not a scary team. However, something that should concern the Sooners is the type of production they are receiving from multiple players on the roster. Currently, Clemson has six players on the roster that are averaging double-digits scoring compared to Oklahoma's four players averaging double-figures. This should concern the Sooners because it is the same type of problem they ran into last game with the Panthers. A big reason why Oklahoma gave up this huge lead was much due to Klint Carlson, who scored a career-high 22 points against OU. The Sooners did a fairly decent job shutting down the star players of UNI by holding Bennett Koch to only 8 points and making Jeremy Morgan shoot 4-15 from the field for 17 points. Klint Carlson was probably not their biggest concern going into this matchup, however they will not forget his name for a while now. This is the type of problem Clemson can present. The Tigers are lead by Gabe DeVoe, scoring 15.67 per matchup. However, Avry Holmes (14.67), Jaron Blossomgame (14.33), Donte Grantham (14.00), Marcquise Reed (10.67) and Sidy Djitte (10.33) are not too far behind the scoring leader. OU will need to be consistent on defense throughout every position to be able to halt this Clemson offense.
Oklahoma has been fairly consistent across the board as well with their production. Jordan Woodard is easily the early-season MVP for the Sooners, accumulating 17 points, five rebounds, four assists and 2.3 steals per matchup. Khadeem Lattin has improved his amount of production this season, posting 13.33 points, seven rebounds and two blocks per game. Although these numbers are good, Lattin has found himself in foul-trouble in two straight games off of his own mistakes. He needs to find a way to stay on the court and provide even more for this team. These two are the veterans of the team, however they are also both tied for leading the team in turning over the ball (2.67). They need to lead the team in taking care of the ball. Christian James has offered solid production, averaging 11 points, 4.67 rebounds, and three assists. He also has been turning over the ball quite a bit, averaging two turnovers per game. James and Lattin are both averaging 3.67 fouls per game, limiting what they can do on the court.
Other Sooners that are giving OU solid performances are Rashard Odomes (10 points, 4.67 rebounds, 3 assists and 2.33 steals), Kristian Doolittle (8.67 points, 6.67 rebounds), Matt Freeman (8 points and 1.67 rebounds) and Jamuni McNeace (4.67 points, 6.33 rebounds and 1.67 blocks). This Oklahoma squad has the potential to be a deep team. Lon Kruger will need to trust his bench to be productive in order to be even more successful. Down the stretch of their last game as OU slowly gave up its' lead, Freeman sat from the sidelines and was not given a chance to help stop the bleeding. Kruger will need to develop more trust in the depth of this team, and may not be able to rely as heavily on the starting-five as he has in years past
Take care of the ball
As previously stated, the veterans on the team are the ones that are turning over the ball more frequently. In fact, of the 17.3 turnovers OU averages per game (ranked 313th in the country), 11.67 of those turnovers are from the starting lineup per game. Turning over the ball in that devastating loss to UNI was a huge contributing factor that allowed Northern Iowa to claw their way back into it. Oklahoma coughed up the ball 24 times in that game, 18 of those coming from the starters. OU did a decent job in the first half of limiting the Panthers to five points off of turnovers, but Northern Iowa ended up with 24 points off of turnovers to end the game. Ironically, after OU went up by 18 in that game, Northern Iowa ended the game of 53-29, a difference of 24 points. If OU wants to win today, not turning over the ball has to be towards the top of the list as things to focus on. If they do not take care of the ball, Clemson can make them pay for it.
The Tigers and the Sooners are currently consecutively ranked for steals per game. Clemson is ranked 84th in the country with Oklahoma following behind at 85th, both averaging 7.7 steals. However, where there is a massive divide is in the amount of turnovers each offense accumulates. Clemson does a great job of not giving up the ball with averaging only 9.7 turnovers per game (15th in the country). OU will need to find a way to disrupt the offense of the Tigers and speed up the game to their advantage. Oklahoma is a much better team out in the open court, than setting up in a half-court offense or defense. Whoever can dictate the pace of the game may decide the winner.
Clog the paint
One key advantage for the Sooners in this matchup is their ability to knock down the outside shot efficiently. OU is shooting very well from the 3-point line, currently ranked 18th in the country with a 44.4 3-point field goal percentage. To put this into perspective, OU averaged 42.2 percent from the 3-point line last season. Freeman is leading the team in 3-point field goal percentage, shooting 6-9 from downtown and a 66.7 3-point field goal percentage. James (55.6) and Woodard (42.1) are not too far behind Freeman from the 3-point line. OU only shot three 3-pointers in each half of the UNI loss, showing a lack of confidence from the outside. After the Sooners knocked down some shots from the outside, it loosened up the UNI defense, which allowed more lanes to drive to the bucket. However, many of the turnovers from Oklahoma came from driving to the basket and expecting to get fouled. OU will need to be able to knock down shots against teams from the outside.
OU will need to force Clemson to shoot from the outside. Currently, the Tigers are shooting 35.2 percent from the 3-point strike, ranked 138th in the country. Although Clemson started fiery hot against Xavier from the 3-point line, knocking down 8-13 in the first half, they returned to earth shortly after that. Clemson went 1-8 in the second half, but still finished with a decent 3-point field goal percentage. The Tigers finished the game with 36 points in the paint, finishing with almost half of their points right by the rim. If the Sooners can clog the paint and force the Tigers to shoot jump shots they will have a better chance at winning this one.
Oklahoma has more depth than the Tigers, the bulk of Clemson's minutes only going to six players. This will be to OU's advantage, especially if the Sooners can get them into foul trouble by attacking the rim. This will be the first game between these two basketball programs, and OU will establish a 1-0 all-time series lead over the Tigers. Oklahoma will move to 3-1 on the season with this victory.
Oklahoma 77- Clemson 70
UPDATE: Forward Dante Buford will be available today for OU. He’d been suffering from a groin strain as of late.