A night after Russell Westbrook recorded his 7th straight triple-double, the Oklahoma Sooners take the court at Chesapeake Energy Arena to play against the Wichita State Shockers. Both teams coming into this matchup with two losses already on their record, this becomes a must-win for both teams before they enter conference play. Wichita State comes cruising into this game winning three straight, while Oklahoma is coming off an impressive showing against ORU. This is the 6th time these two programs will meet, with Oklahoma holding a 4-1 advantage in the all-time series. Here is what you need to know about this "All-College Classic."
How to watch
The game tips off at 3:00 PM CT and will be airing on ESPN2. This is a primetime game for the Sooners, and they will need to win this one today to gain national respect in front of a nationally televised audience. This will be the destination for all Sooner fans to post during the game. If you have an opinion, share it below in this game thread!
Whose losses are better?
The Sooners march into this battle sitting at 6-2, while the Shockers are coming into this one 8-2. Oklahoma has a loss to an unranked Northern Iowa team, who has now lost four straight since beating OU, and acquired a loss on the road last week against the no. 17 ranked Wisconsin Badgers. WSU's two losses have been against two ranked teams in the no. 24 ranked Michigan State Spartans and the no. 10 ranked Louisville Cardinals. What can we learn from these losses?
In the Sooners first loss of the season, OU surged out to a fast start, going up by as much as 18 against the UNI Panthers. However, a late second-half run allowed Northern Iowa to close the lead and get the win over the Sooners in overtime. In the last 11 minutes of that game, OU only mustered to score two field goals. The second loss for Oklahoma was a little different, with OU holding just a 3-point advantage at halftime. The Sooners were only down four points with 10:16 minutes left in the game before the Badgers pulled away to win by 20 points.
In comparison, the Shockers have different style losses. In their game against the Louisville Cardinals, the Shockers faced a 16-point deficit at halftime. However, they soared back in the second half cutting the lead to two points two different times. A similar thing happened in their loss to the Spartans. Although WSU was only down 10 points at halftime, the Spartans separated themselves going up by 18 points in the second half. The feisty Shockers kept fighting, and brought the game within two points with 1:05 left in the game. In both losses, Wichita State managed to outscore the other team in the second half. What this should tell the Sooners is that no matter what size the deficit might be in this game, WSU will fight to the last second.
These two teams have plenty of contributions from the whole team. Although neither team may have a player of the year candidate or many "superstars", they both possess a threat of any player on the roster having a good night. This means that even those guys who don't make the front page of the scouting report may be the reason why someone loses today.
When it comes to balanced minutes, these teams have it down to a science. Utilizing their benches every game, WSU has 10 players that average double-digit minutes while OU has nine players in double-digits. OU relies more heavily on a concentrated group for their points in Jordan Woodard (15.8 ppg), Christian James (12.0 ppg), Khadeem Lattin (10.9 ppg) and Rashard Odomes (10.0 ppg). The Shockers only have two players averaging double-figures in points with, Markis McDuffie (11.1 ppg) and Darral Willis Jr. (10.0 ppg). However, the Shockers have 10 players averaging at least five points per game, and OU only has six players that can say the same. Both teams have also experienced starting lineup shifts, which allows players to build confidence and compete for starting positions.
Oklahoma will need to make sure to memorize their entire roster and give each player respect. We do not want another Northern Iowa meltdown.
The Sooners and Shockers have discovered what they are good at and what they are not good at so far this season. It appears that each team will be faced with a test with what they have done well already. OU has shot the lights out this season, going 41.9 percent behind the arch, making them ranked 9th in the country in that category. The Shockers are currently suffocating their opponents from downtown, allowing them to only shoot 29.1 percent from the 3-point line, making them 34th in the country. James will need to continue his hot shooting streak from behind the line to give the Sooners a boost. He is currently tied for 24th in the country for 3-point shooting field goal percentage, making 61.5 percent of his 3-pointers.
These two defenses could pose real threats to one another. WSU has been known for "playing angry", causing teams to lose composure when facing this WSU team with a chip on their shoulder. The Shockers and ranked 6th in the country in opponent shooting percentage, with their opponents shooting 35.4 percent. They are only allowing 58.2 points per game, and 9th in the country for opponent's points per game. They have also controlled the boards this season, averaging 43 total rebounds per game and being ranked 11th in the country. The Sooners' defense has made its' own impression as well.
Oklahoma has managed to hold their opponents to shooting under 40 percent on the season, with their opponent's season average being only 39.8 percent. Although OU has had its' own turnover problems, they are also causing turnovers as well. They are averaging 9.2 steals per game, and are 10th in the country in this category. The rim protectors have also played a huge role in the interior defensive game, averaging 5.1 blocks per game (36th in the country). Both of these teams have showed they are able to disrupt their opponents' scheme, and whoever can do that today and limit their own turnovers might walk away with the win.
The Sooners will not be at their home court, but being less than an hour away gives OU the benefit of the home crowd. This is a must-win for both teams, considering they have already dropped two before conference play. Oklahoma is in a more desperation mode, however, considering their conference will be more competitive. This will be a huge test for OU, but they will sneak out with a win today. Expect Woodard and James to take the reins of this team today, and lead Oklahoma to its' biggest victory so far this season.
Oklahoma 74 Wichita State 71