For the first time in 11 years, OU will be playing a game on CBS in the Lloyd Noble Center. For this nationally televised game, the Sooners come face to face with a Memphis Tigers team that they historically have struggled against. OU is in desperation mode, as they have let three games slip through their hands before the gauntlet of Big 12 play commences. However, Oklahoma isn't alone. The Tigers are looking to come into Norman to grab a win to avoid losing four of their first 11 games. Two teams, looking for a quick turnaround, square off on early, Saturday afternoon. Who can get the job done?
How to watch
An early Saturday tip-off at 11:30 AM CT at Lloyd Noble Center will be the time and place of this matchup. If you cannot catch the game in Norman, you can always watch the game on CBS. Express your frustrations, questions and concerns throughout the game in the comments below!
In the past 32 years, these programs have met seven total times. The Sooners have come up short in six of those matchups, with Memphis holding a dominant 6-1 all-time record against Oklahoma. Five of these games have been decided by ten points or less, and three of those games being decided by less than five points. OU managed to walk away with their first program win against Memphis in their season debut last season in Memphis. Oklahoma had to cling to the heroism of Buddy Hield to seal the deal last season, as Hield managed to knock down four consecutive free throws in the last 19 seconds to win by six points. Hield put up 30 points, while Jordan Woodard added 15 pivotal points. Who is returning to help both of these teams out this season?
The leader of the Sooners' squad returns, With Woodard leading in points (17.1 ppg), assists (3.9 apg) and steals (2.2 spg). Six other Oklahoma players that contributed in last year's contest return, as well as one other starter in Khadeem Lattin. Memphis returns two starters as well, in Dedric Lawson and Markel Crawford. Lawson, who was the Sooners' biggest threat last season putting up a team-high 22 points, is the leading scorer (20.4 ppg), rebounder (11.1 rpg) and blocks leader (2.7 bpg) for this Memphis team. The top five leading scorers for the Tigers are the only returning players that played in last season's game against OU. The Sooners are trying to do something they have never done before: beat Memphis two times in a row. This win is not the highest-quality, but winning in front of a nationally televised audience could be a big resume booster for both of these programs.
Keys to Victory
These two teams have had success in different ways. At first glance, it would appear that Oklahoma finds most of their success from driving to the basket and getting points in the paint. However, OU continues to shoot the ball lights out from beyond the arch. Their 40.2 percent shooting mark from the 3-point line makes them 27th in the country, and they can mostly attribute that to Christian James. The sophomore is currently 67th in the country in 3-point shooting percentage, making 54.8 percent of his 3-pointers. Kristian Doolittle (50 percent) and Woodard (42.3 percent) are also making Oklahoma a shooting threat from downtown. To balance out the 14.9 turnovers OU is averaging per contest, they are acquiring an impressive 9.1 steals per game, making them 13th in the country. If the Sooners can find a scoring balance from their attacking style and the 3-point shot, while taking care of the ball and make Memphis turn it over, they can win this one.
Memphis has different strengths than Oklahoma. While the Sooners are only averaging 13.9 assists per game (ranked 132nd), Memphis is currently averaging 20.1 assists per game, and are ranked 3rd in the country. They have had major success inside the 3-point line, shooting 55.5 percent for 2-pointers, and are 29th in the country. Their 11.8 offensive rebounds per game makes them 25th in the country, and they are 27th in the country in turnovers, only giving up the ball 11.1 times. If the Tigers can control the boards and score at ease under the bucket while taking care of the ball, they could win this one.
Who needs a win more?
If Oklahoma cannot walk away with a win, this would be the fourth loss for the Sooners on the season. To put things into perspective, OU did not get their fourth loss last year until February 13th against Kansas. That fourth loss was also the only home loss they gave up last year. This game could be the tipping point in either direction for the Sooners. Being a part of the debatably best conference in the country, Oklahoma cannot give up this game to Memphis. If they lose, it may be too much for this young team to recover from.
On the other hand, Memphis is trying to improve upon a 19-15 season. With a loss against the Sooners, the Tigers will be back on track for barely being above .500. Two seasons ago, Memphis managed to post a 18-14 record, not that much better than last year. They are trying to get their program back on track, and return to their success that they had in the 2013-2014 season, going 24-10.
Lon Kruger will have his team ready to go for this nationally televised game, and the Sooners will come ready for this battle. The Tigers will pose a huge threat to OU, but Oklahoma will continue its' home court success. The Sooners will beat Memphis twice in a row for the first time ever, and will make the series 2-6.
Oklahoma- 85 Memphis- 80