Behind Enemy Lines: Sooners

NORMAN, Okla. — Longhorn Digest Publisher Kevin Flaherty asks Sooners Illustrated Publisher Joey Helmer some questions about the Sooners on the hardwood, and Helmer gives the inside scoop.

1. What kind of effect has Lon Kruger had over the troops this year? Are there any noticeable differences in playing style?

A: The biggest difference has been the camaraderie amongst the team. With the previous coaching regime, there were a lot of issues in terms of team chemistry. Even though the Sooners have struggled to a 3-9 record since emerging from non-conference play at 10-2, the group has sustained an impressive level of togetherness, and that's something to build upon. In terms of playing style, Kruger has attempted to bring a much more uptempo pace, and the Sooners have exhibited that at times. Not all the pieces are quite there yet, though, for him to maximize that style.

2. Oklahoma has struggled at times, and at others, shown the ability to throw a scare into the league's top teams. What's the difference? What does Oklahoma need to do well to avoid a letdown and play its best?

A: It really just comes down to execution. In their losses, they've struggled to take care of the ball big time. For example, in their setback to Texas Tech the other night, the Sooners committed 16 turnovers to just 11 helpers. They were inefficient shooting the rock, and that's been the case a lot as of late. So, execution and putting the ball in the basket. It's really as simple as that.

3. Which Sooner is the biggest X-factor, or the player who could throw a wrench into Texas' game plans?

A: It has to be guard Steven Pledger. This team largely lives and dies by the junior guard's performance night in and night out. For example, he's averaging 20.8 points and 57.8 percent field goal shooting in OU's wins, while he's just producing 13.3 points and 37 percent in its losses. Pledger netted just four points in 31 minutes against Tech. Again, the team lives and dies by him, and that's great evidence of it right there.

4. What impact has Romero Osby had on the Sooners?

A: Osby has brought veteran poise and moxie to this team. He's brought leadership and a guy that will give you his all every outing. Osby, like Pledger, is another guy that must produce in order for the Sooners to win with any kind of consistency. He's one of three Sooner players to rank in the top 15 of Big 12 scoring with his 13.6 points per game. Along with Pledger, forward Andrew Fitzgerald is the other (14.6 points per game). So, he's given OU experience and some solid production in the paint.

5. If you were coaching against Oklahoma, what weaknesses would you try to exploit?

A: Exploit their lack of size in the paint, on both ends of the court. Even though OU dominated the rebounding column in non-conference play, they've since struggled when facing much bigger and more athletic front lines in the Big 12. Fitzgerald and Osby have still scored and made their presence known, but there's no one else really there to help them out. That brings up another weakness Texas can exploit: OU's lack of depth. Wear the Sooners out and get into their bench--they don't have a deep one--and the Longhorns will be in great shape to win.

Sooners Illustrated Top Stories