After such an exciting last season, a reality is beginning to set in: this may be a transition year for OU. This is not due to lack of talent, because Oklahoma has showcased its' talents so far this season. However, the immaturity of this bunch is making them play inconsistent and not beating opponents decisively in the manner in which they should. Fortunately for the Sooners, they will have an easy opponent in the Northern Colorado Bears before traveling up to Wisconsin on Saturday. OU needs to figure out their issues in this game because Wisconsin will be their toughest test yet and first ranked opponent of the season. If Oklahoma can go 2-0 this week, this could be the turn around that we all have been waiting for.
How to watch
Tipoff time is 7 p.m. The game will be televised on Fox Sports Oklahoma, and you can check here for how to listen on the radio. If needed, you may also download the FoxSportsGo app which will allow you to stream the game from a phone or tablet.
If you wish to share your opinion or are looking for a place to make comments about the game, this will be the official game thread throughout the game.
Lack of Leadership
105 straight games. That's how many games Jordan Woodard, Isaiah Cousins, Buddy Hield and Ryan Spangler played together. That is a lot. Over that streak of games, the Sooners did not just develop the "core four."They created chemistry. A voice. One heartbeat. An identity. Qualities that cannot be created in an offseason. Whether this team was going to win a game or lose one, they knew who they were and where they stood. So when Oklahoma lost three of the core four, they did not just lose talented players. They lost the leaders of this program.
Coming into the season, all eyes were on Woodard, Khadeem Lattin and Christian James to lead this team. Woodard has the skill set to be the leader, and even has the stats to take over this team (17.6 ppg, 4.8 rpg, 4.2 apg and 2.6 spg). However, he does not vocally lead, and does not provide that fire that this team needs. Lattin has had an average season so far (11.8 ppg, 6.8 rpg and 2.0 bpg), but he has not produced like people thought he would and has gotten into foul trouble in almost every game so far. His average play has lead him to not being the leader that OU hoped he could be. James has been inconsistent this season, averaging 10.8 ppg, 3.6 rpg and 2.6 apg. He is not quite developed enough yet as a player to take over this team. The Sooners need to establish a leader and form an identity against the Bears today, so they are more prepared for the big game this weekend. They will be faced with the leaders of Northern Colorado first in Jordan Davis (24 ppg, 5.83 rpg and 5.33 assists, tied for 10th in the country for scoring) and Chaz Glotta (12.40 ppg and 2.20 rpg) although he may not play due to an ankle injury. If Woodard, James or Lattin do not step up, they will need production from Kristian Doolittle, Rashard Odomes and Matt Freeman.
Be ready to shoot
The Bears have not had a great start to the season, winning only two of six games. However, they have already played on the road at Butler and played against Arizona in Tucson when they were ranked no. 8 in the country. Northern Colorado put up a fight in both of these games throughout the first half, being only down by 10 to Butler at half and held a one-point lead over Arizona at halftime. The Bears were within four points against Arizona with about eight minutes to play before the Wildcats sealed the win. What UNC did to hang with Arizona was they played a 3-2 zone defense to make Arizona make shots from the outside. The Sooners need to be ready for this scheme to be applied to them, which would allow OU to continue their hot-streak of 3-point shooting (42 percent, no. 14th in the country). Oklahoma will need to pass the ball like a hot potato and quickly swing the ball around the perimeter. Attacking the heart of the zone could also open up 3-point shooters like James (62.5 percent), Woodard (37.5 percent), Freeman (46.2 percent) and Darrion Strong-Moore (44.4 percent). OU needs to prepare themselves to attack the boards with purpose, because the Bears are 50th in the country for their opponents' rebounds per game (32.4 rpg).
Oklahoma is known for its' severe weather on and off the court. The Sooners have suffered with scoring drought issues so far this season, one of them leading to giving away a winnable game against Northern Iowa. In that disappointing loss, Odomes scored a layup with 11:27 to play giving OU a 48-33 edge. Oklahoma would not score another field goal until Doolittle knocked down the game-tying three with 13 seconds left to play. Less severe droughts have plagued the Sooners this season, giving their opponents opportunities to take advantage of their scoring problem. In OU's last contest against Abilene Christian, it took them until after the first media timeout to score their first field goal of the game when Matt Freeman knocked down a jump shot at the 15:38 mark. Their next field goal would not come until 10:50 left in the first half, with a Jamuni McNeace layup. In their battle against Clemson, the Sooners suffered from two first-half droughts of no field goals for nearly three minutes and four minutes. Against lesser opponents, Oklahoma can get away with these issues but they will soon be magnified by their tougher competition if not solved quickly.
Northern Colorado is no stranger to these problems. In their clash against the Arizona Wildcats, the Bears suffered a nearly three-minute-drought of no field goals in the second half, followed up with a nearly four-minute-drought with no field goals. When Northern Colorado faced Butler, in the first half they did not score a field goal from 9:21 to 2:38, however Jordan Davis mustered six free throws in this duration. The second half did not prove any better, as UNC scored no field goals from the 10:54 mark to 4:03 left in the game.
This will set up for a game that could consist of runs and droughts by both teams. Whoever can limit these scoring issues will walk away with the win. Look for OU to get Woodard more involved if they begin to struggle on the offensive side, as the Bears will lean on Davis to make plays if they experience offensive issues.
Oklahoma has not been dominant by any means this season, so this may not be as decisive of a win as people would hope it would be. However, OU is the better team and has more talent overall. If Oklahoma's shots do not fall down, the Bears could make this competitive through the first half and part of the second. Oklahoma will pull away, and give OU a 3-0 all-time series advantage over Northern Colorado.
Oklahoma- 77 Northern Colorado- 65