Full-court press: Bedlam

Bedlam storms into Norman with the Sooners in need of a victory

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

No. 24 Oklahoma State (12-4, 2-2) at No. 18 Oklahoma (11-5, 2-2)

When: 6:04 p.m. CST

TV/Radio: ESPN2/107.7 FM(OKC); 1430 AM (Tulsa); Sirius 138; XM 200

Series: Oklahoma, 131-95

Finding the words that fit

Different players came up with different ways to describe the past two losses, when Oklahoma played uncharacteristic of itself according to forward TaShawn Thomas.

“We just weren’t clicking,” Thomas said. “It wasn’t there.”

Other players chose different words.

Oklahoma forward Ryan Spangler picked embarrassment.

“I think we were a little bit embarrassed about how we played last game,” he said. “We want to show that we’re not about that. We don’t let people out fight us. We’re ready to fight.”

Leading scorer Buddy Hield was frustrated by the lack of toughness.

“It’s been frustrating a little bit,” he said. “We’ve got a veteran team. We’ve gotta fight through adversity. We just have to come back and go at the chalkboard. We have to be tougher than teams.”

So pick a word, none of them are wrong: Embarrassing, frustrating, toughness, uncharacteristic.

Stopping Oklahoma State’s Big 3

The Cowboys have two obviously dangerous players. Le’Bryan Nash and Phil Forte might be the only Oklahoma State players averaging double figures, but they are the top two scorers in the Big 12 Conference.

Forte (17.8 points per game) is dangerous on the offensive side of half court, and Nash (17.9 points per game) has become as dominant as ever as the many scorer for the Cowboys. Spangler said he and Thomas have to watch out for Nash’s spin move, and Hield recalled Forte knocking down 3-pointers from the ‘E’ on the Lloyd-Noble Center court.

“Two terrific players that are having great years,” Oklahoma coach Lon Kruger said. “They are the leading scorers. So, that’s their role now: To be much more aggressive and score. They’ve done that very well. They’re team is playing well. They are playing with a lot of confidence. They’re playing their roles well. It starts with Nash and Forte for sure, but they have other good players around them as well.”

One of those players is Michael Cobbins, who is one of the top shot blockers in the Big 12 Conference.

Cobbins is one of only two players in the conference averaging more than two blocks per game.

“He’s a very good shot blocker,” Kruger said. “He’s a guy that protects the rim and does a very good job above it. He can block shots from quite a ways away. He has a good feel for it. He’s a guy that kind of gives them a second line back there. If you can get by the first guy, he’s very good a blocking shots.”

Too much one-on-one

Oklahoma, which has won 10 straight home games against Oklahoma State, learned something about its offense in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean.

The Sooners found out how to use each other, developing an offensive chemistry that helped them roll off seven victories in eight games. They had 10 or more assists in seven of those eight games.

That’s changed, though.

Oklahoma had just four assists in a loss to Kansas State and has 16 in the past two games – both losses. Oklahoma was forced into assists because of the West Virginia press. The Sooners had to move the ball to an open receiver or risk a turnover.

“We continue to emphasis that, of course,” Kruger said of searching for better ball movement on offense. “. . . It’s one thing to watch it from a coaching perspective or a fan’s and say ‘why not?’ It gets you stirred up pretty good. It takes a little more composure than what we had the other night.”

Oklahoma actually has an assist-to-turnover ratio of less than one through the past three games. Starting point guard Jordan Woodard has just four assists in the past two games.

“It’s not just the point guard’s responsibility to beat a press like that,” Kruger said. “It takes everyone. It takes everyone being available. Certainly, it starts from the point guard, because that’s what people notice – the guy with the ball. Receivers have got to really move. Everyone has to work together.”

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