The 9-1 Oklahoma Sooners have one final test before conference play begins, and that test comes against a Northwestern Wildcats team that is loaded with a group of experienced playmakers. This will be the last test for the Sooners before entering the gauntlet of quality conference opponents later this month.
Oklahoma Sooners (9-1) vs. Northwestern Wildcats (9-4, 1-1): 6 p.m. CT
Commentary: Mark Neely and Dan Dakich
Live Stream: WatchESPN
Radio: Sooner Radio Network (KRXO 107.7 FM “The Franchise” in Oklahoma City; KTBZ 1430 AM in Tulsa)
- The Wildcats’ four losses have been to Creighton, Texas Tech, Georgia Tech and Purdue, with all except the Texas Tech loss coming by five points or fewer.
- Northwestern made its first NCAA Tournament appearance in school history last fall, and most of the stars of that team play prominent roles once again this season.
- The Wildcats are led by senior wing Scottie Lindsey, who is averaging 15.8 points per game while connecting on 38 percent of his three-point attempts. Vic Law and Bryant McIntosh are also major threats on the offensive end with each averaging over 13 points per contest. McIntosh also averages 5.9 assists.
- Northwestern is anchored down low by Dererk Pardon, who is averaging 11.2 PPG and 6.0 RPG this season.
- Northwestern has allowed only 54 points per game over its past eight contests (credit to Toby Rowland for sharing that stat). In addition, the Wildcats held one opponent — Chicago State — to only eight points in the first half of their Dec. 11 game.
- Trae Young propels the offense - In addition to leading the nation in both scoring and assists, Trae Young has led this Oklahoma team to 94.2 points per contest. That average leads the nation, and Trae Young’s ability to make his teammates better has everything to do with it. This team is 13th in assists per game with 18.8, which is in stark contrast to how the team operated last season. This team as a whole moves the ball very well, and Young has set the tone in that regard.
- Block party - Oklahoma is blocking 5.9 shots per game this season, which is good for 22nd nationally. Jamuni McNeace leads the way in that regard with two per game, and you’d be hard-pressed to find to find a more impressive shot-blocker out there. Khadeem Lattin, however, isn’t far behind with 1.9 per contest. In addition, the lengthy Brady Manek, who has blocked 10 shots in 10 games, is also getting in on the fun.
- McGusty is back - After being the best player on the team for much of last season, Kameron McGusty is finally coming into his own as of late. He’s recorded his first two double-digit performances of the season in his last two outings and appears to have regained his confidence. McGusty is one of the most talented scorers in the Big 12 when he’s in the right frame of mind, and Oklahoma has benefitted from that greatly in its last two games. Cody Stavenhagen of the Tulsa World recently wrote an article about his newfound groove, so you should definitely give it a read.
It’s sort of hard to gauge this Northwestern team’s play at the moment since the Wildcats haven’t really faced quality competition since their loss to Purdue back on Dec. 3. However, it’s easy to see how well Oklahoma is playing. The Sooners have won seven straight games, with two of those wins coming against teams that were ranked at the time. This veteran Northwestern team should definitely put up a fight, but don’t expect them to come away victorious.
Oklahoma 90, Northwestern 82
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Still need a last-minute gift idea? Then you have to check out this sweet new t-shirt from our friends at BreakingT inspired by Oklahoma’s talented floor general. With how well the Oklahoma men’s basketball team is playing, I think we’re going to see a lot more hoops-themed apparel moving forward.