Oklahoma Sooners open the 2015-16 home schedule against McNeese State

After a big season-opening win on the road, OU comes home looking for physicality.

Sooners Illustrated will present three things to watch before every men’s basketball game during the 2015-16 season.

McNeese State (0-2) at No. 8 Oklahoma (1-0)

When: 7 p.m.

TV/Radio: SSTV/107.7 FM

Series: Oklahoma, 2-0

Woodard to the wing

The work that Oklahoma guard Jordan Woodard put in during the offseason left him confident when Isaiah Cousins drove the lane and kicked the ball to him on the wing, just outside the 3-point arc.

Woodard shot 25.4 percent from behind the arc last year but stepped up and knocked down a big 3-pointer to help secure the victory. He went 2-for-3 from behind the arc in the victory against Memphis.

He’s been playing off the ball for all three games – exhibition or regular season – that Oklahoma has played with Cousins running the point predominantly. It hasn’t changed his role too much.

“The way Lon Kruger has his system with three guards, he just wants us all to be aggressive out there whether it’s in the half court or transition,” Woodard said. “Playing off the ball is different, but at the same time, I get to be aggressive.”

Oklahoma coach Lon Kruger said moving Woodard, who is actually less talkative on the court than Cousins, off the ball gives Woodard less to think about.

“Ever since we kind of moved him off the ball and more into the wing, he’s played more like that in practice,” Kruger said. “Not always in the exhibition games but in practice much more like that to score.

“He’s been shooting the ball really well in the fall. It’s good to see that. It’s kind of another weapon.”

Woodard finished just shy of a triple-double – 15 points, nine rebounds and seven assists. It won’t be entirely permanent, although it has been very effective for both Cousins and Woodard.

“Isaiah gives us some things we need at the point and Jordan at the off,” Kruger said. “Jordan will still be back and forth at the point. It’s not like he’s not going to play at the point.”

Sooners need more physicality

If one thing was clear against Memphis, it was that Oklahoma still has issues inside – rebounding and physicality.

Jamuni McNeace and Khadeem Lattin both got into early foul trouble, and Dante Buford had to pick up the slack. He played 23 minutes – compared to just 16 combined from McNeace and Lattin.

“Our practices are intense but the games 100 more intense,” Buford said. “You just have to bring it defensively and offensively more than you ever have.”

Oklahoma allowed 23 offensive rebounds, 16 seconds-chance points and 22 points off turnovers. Memphis forward Dedric Lawson caused Oklahoma plenty of issues with his size and length.

“We’ve got to be more physical,” Kruger said. “I think Memphis felt like, and they did, beat us around on the boards a little bit. Lawson is going to do that to a lot of people. He’s long. We’ve got figure out a way to keep that from happening.”

Manyang watch

Oklahoma didn’t recruit Akolda Manyang necessarily to be the fifth starter, but Kruger hoped he’d be in the mix. For the first time all season, Manyang was a full participant in practice two days in a row.

He didn’t travel with the team to Memphis, and Kruger has not specific date for his return. It’s all about when Manyang is ready.

“We’ll take it day by day and see how he’s feeling,” Kruger said Wednesday. “Most importantly, he’s got to feel like he’s comfortable to go and not worried about the foot. He’s getting closer I think.”

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