The second Bedlam match-up of the season features two basketball teams going in very different directions. Led by guard play and a defensive adjustment, OSU has won seven of their last eight and is surging its way towards an NCAA tournament bid. The Sooners on the other hand have lost seven of their last eight, and their best player, Jordan Woodard, to a season-ending injury.
The previous Bedlam battle in Norman ended in thrilling fashion and featured a game-winning three from Phil Forte in the final seconds of the game. Tonight’s battle should be more lopsided as the Cowboys continue their push towards March against a deflated and short-handed Sooners team.
Let’s look at the quick hits for tonight’s matchup against OU.
Sooners (9-16, 3-10 Big 12) vs. Cowboys (17-9, 6-7 Big 12)
Time: 7:00 p.m. CST
Location: Gallagher-Iba Arena, Stillwater, OK
Stream: WatchESPN.com (requires provider login)
Radio: Cowboy Radio Network
Live Stats: okstate.statbroadcast.com
Coming off of last year’s Final Four run led by Buddy Hield and other standout seniors, this season has been one to forget for Lon Kruger and the Sooners. They are currently last place in the Big 12 with a 3-10 record in conference play, and 9-16 overall on the season. OU only has one victory in their last eight contests, and to make matters worse, they lost their leading scorer and lone senior Jordan Woodard to a season-ending ACL tear last week against Iowa State. Woodard was the heart and soul of this Sooner team and will be sorely missed going forward. However, even when Woodard was in the lineup, this OU squad has shown the signs of a young and inexperienced team all season long. With 11 underclassmen on the roster, OU lacks any real identity and they have struggled mightily to win close games. OU has lost nine games this season by six points or less.
It’s hard to point to any one specific area costing the Sooners; they are second to last in the Big 12 in both scoring offense and scoring defense, and last in field goal percentage. However, in spite of the disappointing season, Lon Kruger just got a commitment from five-star point guard Trae Young on Thursday. This may be the lone bright spot on the season for an OU program in desperate need of offensive help going forward. Unfortunately for Kruger, Young won’t be suiting up until next season, and the Sooners will have to rely on their underclassmen to pull out a victory in GIA today. OU will be going for their fourth consecutive win in Gallargher-Iba this evening, except this time, they’re 12 point underdogs.
Players to Watch
Kameron McGusty, Freshman Guard
In the first matchup, McGusty was the only player giving OSU any issues. He shot 9-17 from the field, scoring 22 points and adding 4 rebounds. McGusty is averaging 10.5 ppg on the season and will be counted on to step up his role offensively without Jordan Woodard.
Kristian Doolittle, Freshman Forward
Doolittle is averaging 8.6 points per game 6.5 boards per game this season. While those numbers don’t jump off the screen, Doolittle is a solid freshman talent capable of getting hot any given night. Earlier in the season Doolittle had 15 and 15 against Iowa State and then blew up for 29 and 10 the very next game.
Khadeem Latin, Junior Forward
Khadeem Latin puts up similar numbers to Doolittle with averages of eight points per game along with six boards, but he doesn’t offer the same offensive upside. However, Latin is third in the Big 12 with 2.1 blocks per game. In the previous game against the pokes, Latin had six blocked shots and gave Evans real issues in the paint, altering his shots
Coming off their fourth straight road win in the Big 12, Brad Underwood has OSU surging back into the NCAA Tournament field. The cowboys have now won seven of their past eight games and the only loss during that stretch was a 3-point loss at home to Baylor. After starting out 0-6 in the Big 12, any hope for a return to the big dance seemed sorely out of reach for this cowboys team. But all the pokes needed was to get their first win out of the way and the Ws have been piling up. OSU has relied heavily on their Big 3, Jawun Evans, Jeffrey Carroll, and Phil Forte to carry the team this season. Evans and Carroll are both averaging just under 18 points per game while Forte is adding in 13.5 points a game and is second in the Big 12 in three-pointers made. This group leads an OSU offense that is first in the Big 12 in scoring at 85.8 points per game. OSU is second in the big 12 from behind the arc, shooting just over 40 percent and they lead the Big 12 in free throw percentage, shooting 77 percent from the line.
However, OSU has been scoring and shooting like this all season long. The main reason for the current stretch of success, was a tweak in defensive philosophy mid-way through the season. Yahoo Sports has a good write up of the change here . Earlier in the season, the cowboys were living off turnovers created by their swarming and chaotic defense. In the Big 12 however, the turnovers weren’t coming and it left OSU vulnerable under the basket where teams were consistently getting open looks. OSU has backed off the pressure and settled into a more traditional style of defense. The pressure doesn’t extend too far past the 3-point line and the cowboys mix it up with man-to-man and zone looks. This adjustment, along with some key players like Davon Dillard, Lindy Waters, Brandon Averette and others stepping up off the bench, has sparked this tremendous stretch of basketball for the Pokes. Facing and overmatched OU team, the pokes are on the verge of their first Bedlam sweep in 12 years. Brad Underwood is looking to start out is OSU tenure 2-0 against the Sooners.
Keys to the game
- Come out Aggressive Early - This OU team is young, inexperienced, and without their senior leader and best player Jordan Woodard. The Pokes need to come out of the gate strong and overwhelm OU early. If OSU can deliver a knockout punch in the first 10 minutes, it might be too tall of a task to ask these young Sooners to battle back. Fully expecting a deer in the headlights look from OU in GIA tonight.
- Stay out of Foul Trouble - This is generally something you wan’t to avoid every game, but I’m highlighting it for tonight’s game for a few reasons. OSU is more talented, has more experience, and is at home. If Evans and Carroll find themselves in foul trouble early, OSU will be relying on its underclassmen just like OU, this evens the talent gap. Second, OU is the worst shooting team in the Big 12. The Sooners will be struggling to find consistent scoring tonight and getting to the line might be the only way they crack 70 points.
- Bring back the pressure - While this is counter intuitive to the recent success the Cowboys have had on defense, I could see Underwood dialing up the pressure in certain moments during the game. Without Jordan Woodard, OU doesn’t have a premier ball handler and could struggle mightily against some different press looks. I’ll be surprised if I don’t see OSU looking to take advantage of OU’s inexperience in that way.
I think the Pokes roll in Stillwater tonight. OSU is playing too well and GIA will be a huge factor. This OU team has some good young players, but they are overmatched in almost every facet in tonights matchup.
OSU - 85 OU - 65