Full-court press: West Virginia

Mountaineers bring heavy pressure in matchup with Sooners

Sooners Illustrated will present three things to watch before every men’s basketball game during the 2014-15 season.

No. 16 Oklahoma (11-4, 2-1) at No. 14 West Virginia (14-2, 2-1)

When: 6:02 p.m. CST

TV/Radio: ESPNEWS/107.7 FM(OKC); 1430 AM (Tulsa)

Series: Oklahoma, 5-2

Sooners failing in tight games

In the Big 12, every game is going to be close. There won’t be many blowouts – despite the fact that Oklahoma’s two wins are by a combined 31 points.

The Sooners haven’t fared well in close games this season, though. In games decided by fewer than 10 points, Oklahoma is 0-3 this season. It’s narrowest victory was a 10-point win against Baylor to open Big 12 Conference play.

“They’re all going to be tight. We assume that,” Oklahoma coach Lon Kruger said. “Certainly, we’ll have to do a better job of finishing, always. . . . Better teams play better in the last two or three minutes of the game. So many games come down that the teams that win those are the better teams.”

Kruger’s teams haven’t fared well late in the games. Oklahoma is 0-7 under Kruger in overtime. In games decided by fewer than 10 points in the Big 12 Conference last year, Oklahoma was 6-7. They were 4-7 in the 2011-12 season.

“When it comes down to it, you’ve got to get stops and you’ve got to execute,” Oklahoma point guard Jordan Woodard said. “There’s nothing more to it than that. You’ve got to take care of business. “

Booker off the bench

Oklahoma has definitely been missing something off the bench with very limited scoring in the Big 12 season.

The Sooners have gotten less than 30 points from its non-starters through the first three games despite averaging more than 68 points per game.

The bench is accounting for just 11 percent of the scoring production.

“We’ve got to get more production. We’ve got to get more people in there and give them a chance to get more production and see if we can make a little bit deeper bench.”

One player who could make a difference is guard Frank Booker. The Sooners’ long-range threat has made just one basket in the past month but has been struggling through injuries that seem to be a thing of the past.

Booker was a full participant in practice Monday and has been for a week. He saw no time against Kansas State, though.

“He’s fine now,” Kruger said. “I think it was an issue for a while, for sure. He’s normal.”

Slowing down Staten, WVU

West Virginia brings not only the Big 12 Conference Preseason Player of the Year but also one of the top defenses in the nation.

Juwan Staten is scoring 16.5 points per game (fourth in the Big 12) to lead the second-ranked scoring offense in the conference. Staten is the only player in the conference in the top five in both scoring and assists.

“He’s just so quick,” said Woodard, who could draw the primary assignment against the 6-foot-1 Staten. “He’s got a nice handle. He has an excellent mid-range jumper. You’ve got to stay in front of him and rely on you to do your job when you’re on the ball. You’ve got help-side defenders, so you’ve got to make it tough on him. Hopefully we can pressure him 94 feet and wear him out.”

Pressure for 94 feet is also a theme for West Virginia.

The Mountaineers lead the country in steals (12.8 per game), turnover margin (10.6) and offensive rebounds (18.1). Oklahoma had given up fewer than 10 turnovers on three of the past five games but turned the ball over 13 times against Kansas State, which played mostly a half-court pressure man defense.

“They like to speed you up. They like to put pressure on guys,” Woodard said. “They like to speed up the tempo and force the issue on the defensive end. I feel like we have so many guys that can handle the ball that we can get up and down the court and make plays for each other. It’s going to be good if we keep our turnovers low.”

***Click here to discuss the Sooners and the Mountaineers***


Sooners Illustrated Top Stories