OU leans on 'D' in final non-conference win

Sooners dispatch Patriots with new identity without the ball

The words almost seemed strange as they came out of George Mason coach Paul Hewitt’s mouth after Oklahoma’s 61-43 victory Wednesday night, just days before the start of Big 12 Conference play for the Sooners.

“We knew from watching them on tape, they're an outstanding defensive team, and we knew scoring was going to be part of the problem,” he said.

That’s definitely not the identity the Sooners had at the end of last season, especially not the last time Oklahoma (9-3) squared off with the Patriots a year ago.

The “pre-conference season,” as Oklahoma coach Lon Kruger likes to call it, is about developing an identity. The Sooners’ look this season might be a bit different than it has in the past, but it’s as good as ever.

No. 18 Oklahoma, which opens conference play Saturday against Baylor at Lloyd Noble Center, allowed a season-low 43 points – marking its third time in four games of allowing fewer than 55 points.

This time last year, Oklahoma was scoring at will. Now, it’s a little different.

“We’ve been pretty consistent on that end,” Kruger said. “Obviously, there was a half here or half there we’d like to have back. But for the most part through our 12 ballgames it’s been pretty consistent on the defensive end.”

George Mason (5-7) shot just 29.5 percent from the field, the Patriots lowest percentage of the season, and went 0-for-14 from behind the 3-point arc. Oklahoma has held nine of its 12 opponents to less than 40 percent shooting and all but one to a field goal percentage lower than 44 percent.

Where offense was its calling card last year, Oklahoma has leaned on its developed defense this season.

“Defensively, we were pretty solid from start to finish,” Kruger said. “It wasn’t like they had lot of runs where they chopped into that lead three or four buckets at a time. You’ve got to like that.”

Buddy Hield scored 15 of his game-high 17 points in the first half, and Isaiah Cousins added 11 for the Sooners. With TaShawn Thomas and Ryan Spangler in foul trouble early, it was point guard Jordan Woodard who finished with a career-high nine rebounds.

“They took a couple jump shots and I got a chance to get in there and get the long rebounds,” Woodard said. Thanks to the Oklahoma defense, George Mason missed most of those jump shots, hitting just five field goals out of the paint.

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