As the Sooners escaped Orlando with a 2-1 record and third place in the Tire Pros Invitational, they look to improve upon two subpar performances and gain more consistency. OU will have a chance to regain some confidence with facing Abilene Christian and Northern Colorado before they have to make a trip up to Wisconsin to face the no. 16 Badgers.
The game will be televised today on Fox Sports Oklahoma at 2 PM Central. If you are out of town and not near a television, the "Fox Sports Go" app is a good substitute, or if you are traveling back home on the road here is a list of radio stations to try.
This will also be the game thread to share all your thoughts, frustrations and concerns for this team and this game today.
First half shutdown and second half meltdown
Over the last two games, the Sooners have displayed some of its' best basketball and worst basketball. OU has managed to race out to an 18-point lead against Northern Iowa and Clemson, allowing both teams to climb their way back into it. Northern Iowa disrupted Oklahoma enough to steal a game in overtime, while Clemson pulled within two points in the second half. This should be a little concerning, especially considering the talent level of these opponents are not nearly as good as OU's Big 12 competitors.
For this battle against the Abilene Christian Wildcats, do not expect a lot of scoring in the first half. OU is currently 20th in the country in opponent's points in the first half, allowing only 25.8 points per half. However, ACU has a stifling defense, allowing just 19.5 points for their opponents in the first half, and being ranked 2nd in the country. Something intriguing to watch will be which team will be able to play more consistent and put together a solid second half. OU is currently 148th (37.8) in opponent points in the second half, while the Wildcats are 268th (42.0). The Sooners need to find a way to not suffer from a second half lull, and carry the same type of energy in the second half.
Strengths vs. Strengths
If someone said that OU was going to lose Buddy Hield, Isaiah Cousins and Dinjiyl Walker, but that they were going to shoot a better percentage from the 3-point line, you'd think they were crazy. However, the Sooners have done just that, so far. Oklahoma shot 42.2% from beyond the arc last season, while they are shooting a scorching 45.9% from downtown this season, currently ranked 8th in the country. This will be an interesting matchup, considering the ACU is currently 24th in the country in opponent's 3-point shooting percentage, making them shoot 25.6 percent from downtown. OU has to move the ball around and get open shots, but this will not be easy considering that the Wildcats are 3rd in the country in opponent's assists per game.
On the other side, ACU has some of their own strengths from the offensive end. Although Abilene Christian has not been a threat from the 3-point line (ranked 333 in 3-point shooting percentage), they are lethal inside the arc. The Wildcats are shooting 63.6 percent on 2-point shots, and are ranked 3rd in the country. However, the Sooners can counter that with being ranked 7th in the country in opponent's 2-point shooting percentage, allowing them shoot only 35.6 percent inside the arc. OU will need to find a way to defend the 3-point line throughout this season, considering their opponents currently shoot 37 percent, making the Sooners ranked 245th in opponent's 3-point shooting percentage.
Players to watch
Jordan Woodard has been the most consistent player for the Sooners so far this season. He is currently leading the team in three different categories: Points (18), assists (5.25, tied for 76th in the country) and steals (2.5, tied for 39th in the country). However, his 2.5 turnovers per game is tied with Khadeem Lattin for most turnovers per game. Woodard needs to find a way to take care of the ball so this young team can follow in his footsteps.
Other players to watch for are Lattin and Christian James. James has been a solid performer throughout the season, putting up 12.50 points, 4.25 rebounds and 2.50 assists. A skill that he displayed last season was his ability to knock down the outside shot, and he has continued to improve in this area. He is shooting an impressive 71.4 percent from the 3-point line, making him tied for 51st in the country. Lattin has contributed, but foul trouble has plagued him early into the season. He is averaging 12.50 points, 6.25 rebounds and a team-high two blocks per game (tied for 63rd in the country). He is not nearly rebounding as much as he should, and his foul trouble has given Jamuni McNeace more time than maybe expected.
Kristian Doolittle (leads team in rebounds with 6.75 rpg), Matt Freeman (shooting 60 percent from the 3-point line) and Rashard Odomes (7.50 points, 3.75 rebounds, 2.50 assists and 1.75 steals) have all showed real potential, and will hopefully continue to contribute as the talent-level increases which each opponent played.
For the Wildcats, some players to keep an eye on are Jaren Lewis, Jovan Crnic and Jalone Friday. Lewis is currently the leader in points (14.33) and steals (3.0, tied for 13th in the country). Lewis recently scored his season-high in the Wildcats lone loss of the season, putting up 18 points against Charleston Southern in their 66-65 loss. Crnic leads the team in minutes (37, tied for 28th in the country) and assists (3.67), but he is also averaging 11.33 and 4.67 rebounds. Friday is currently grabbing a team-high seven rebounds per game and leading the team in swatting 1.67 shots a game. He is scoring 10.33 points per game, but is also averaging the most turnovers (3) and is almost fouling out each game (averaging 4 fouls a game). This trio has the biggest targets on their backs for the Sooners, but do not be surprised if other players like Jaylen Franklin (9.67 points, 4.67 rebounds and 2.33 assists) and Hayden Farquhar (8.33 points and 3.67 rebounds) have a solid contribution as well.
OU has struggled in putting together a complete performance recently, but they will not in this one today. The Sooners will have solid contributions and efforts across the board in both halves, giving Oklahoma a solid win. This will push the all-time series to 3-0 against Abilene Christian if the Sooners can bring this win home.
Oklahoma- 93 Abilene Christian- 75