Cousins stepping up in OU backcourt

Wing scorer taking a more efficient approach to his game

Isaiah Cousins very well might have been the forgotten man in the Oklahoma backcourt this season.

Wingman Buddy Hield got all the press and rightfully so. He was the leading scorer on the team and came into this season as a potential NBA Draft prospect. But he’s in the middle of an early shooting slump.

Point guard Jordan Woodard was ready to take the next step as a sophomore – set to become a dominant player in the Big 12 and help Oklahoma contend for a conference championship. Instead, Woodard has almost as many turnovers (23) as assists (29).

In stepped the once-erratic Cousins, known more for its questionable shot choice than his consistency. Through the first seven games of the season, Cousins is averaging 12.3 points and shooting a backcourt-best 45.6 percent. He’s also the key for the Sooners on defense, where Oklahoma has re-dedicated itself.

“Isaiah has been really important,” Oklahoma coach Lon Kruger said. “He’s setting the tone out there defensively with his intensity on the ball. There are stretches when he’s really made good plays offensively.”

Oklahoma (5-2) as a team was presented with one goal this past week and for the season: Be more efficient.

It spoke loudest to Cousins, who shot well last season but took way too many poor shots.

“You’ve gotta come every day and every practice and be ready to play,” Cousins said. “. . . If we’re gonna win games, we need people to be here every day. Somebody has to do it. I guess coach wants me and Buddy to do it. I’m not going to run away from it.”

As Oklahoma prepares for an in-state game against Tulsa on Saturday, Cousins’ teammates have noticed a change in his game.

“Isaiah’s game is very natural right now because he’s spent so much time in the gym,” Woodard said. “Everything comes easy for him when the game time comes. You still haven’t seen the best of Isaiah.”

Cousins isn’t trying to fill the void left while the rest of his backcourt works through its issues. He has confident that Woodard will control the ball and Hield will come out of his slump.

Right now though, the game is finding him.

“I just feel like it’s the flow of the game. If they give me a shot, then I’ll take it,” Cousins said. Since I’ve been in the gym working on it, that shot is going to go in. That’s why it seems like that sometimes. … It’s finding me. It’s giving me a rhythm.”

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