With four losses under the belts of this young Sooner squad, each defeat has yielded a very similar pattern. Although this is a very talented bunch, the discipline to assemble a complete performance is lacking. OU has been competitive in each of its' losses, but second-half collapses have been the Achilles heel this season. Lon Kruger's team has showed some real potential and fight this year, despite losing much of their output from the team last season. Throughout the season, Oklahoma has lead in every game at the half, except for one 3-point deficit against Abilene Christian. This includes the four losses that the Sooners have suffered from. There is a specific point in the game where OU turns into a different team and gives away games:
The 10-minute mark.
In two of the four losses this season, the Sooners have been leading its' opponent at the 10:00 minute-mark, while in the other two games they trailed by a combined five points. In the last ten minutes of play in their losses, OU has been outscored 98-61. Oklahoma is also getting outscored by 10 points on average in the last ten minutes of play in each of these losses. In the losses versus Northern Iowa and Wisconsin, the Sooners only mustered to score 10 points in the final ten minutes in each of these games. Combining the final 10 minutes of both of these games, OU only made a combined three field goals to end these contests. These scoring droughts and second-half difficulties may become a major road block that Kruger will need to navigate around to acquire a NCAA bid.
An understated issue that is less obvious is the fouling issue of this team, and it is the leaders of the team who are struggling. Christian James has fouled out in three of the four losses, while obtaining four fouls in the other loss. Kristian Doolittle fouled out against the Northern Iowa Panthers, along with Christian James. Khadeem Lattin has suffered from four fouls in two of these losses, while two quick fouls sent him to the bench early against the Memphis Tigers. This fouling problem greatly benefited the Tigers as they managed to shoot 32 free throws and knock down 28 of them to seal the win. Fortunately, Oklahoma's opponents are shooting only 66.7 percent from the free throw line, limiting the amount of free points that OU could be giving them by fouling too much. The Sooner stars who have had to go to the bench early in these contests contribute to these letdowns, and this will need to be fixed going into Big 12 play.
A lack of confidence is apparent in this team down the stretch of games. One area that this lack of confidence is displayed is through the shot selection. Despite being ranked 13th in the country for 3-point shooting percentage (41 percent), they tend to become very reliant on the 2-point shot while they are 164th in the country in 2-point shooting percentage (49.3 percent). This hurt the Sooners the most against Wichita State, when the Shockers came out in the second-half and sagged off their defenders. They allowed OU to take the outside shot, and took away Oklahoma's ability to attack the rim, allowing Wichita State to claw their way back into the game. With players like James, who is tied for 37th in the country for 3-point shooting percentage (55.6 percent), and Jordan Woodard (42.6 percent), this team should trust more in their outside shot down the stretch of games. Some of the fouls that the Sooners get by driving to the basket in the first half is typically not called in the final minutes of the game. Kruger will need to find another way to put the ball in the basket.
The next five games for the Sooners includes playing the no. 4 team in the country, the no. 3 team in the country and three games away from LNC. This slate of games may be the "make or break" phase of the season. OU needs to throw away their record going into Big 12 play and start fresh. If Oklahoma can piece together more complete games, they can make some noise in the Big 12 regular season.