NORMAN – Winning cures all ails.
It disguised Oklahoma's exposed flaws with another narrow win, while at the same time showing the Sooners’ veteran resilience with another come-from-behind victory in Big 12 Conference play.
The blueprint, designed by LSU and utilized by Kansas State in Oklahoma’s loss just three days ago, has been written, and the Sooners have a copy: Face guard Hield, make the best open-court team in the country play against pressure defense and don’t help inside on Khadeem Lattin and Ryan Spangler.
Texas followed a similar plan Monday night and nearly pulled of what only would have appeared to be a rankings upset.
“It was tough,” Spangler said. “We couldn’t get anything going. Luckily, we were playing good defense and working together. That’s something we have to keep doing as a team.”
No team in college basketball is without its flaws, and Oklahoma (20-3, 8-3) is no exception. The Sooners aren’t suddenly going to find an offensive post presence or more athleticism to play one-on-one defense. They’re going to keep switching on the defensive end – working together as opposed to five different one-on-one matchups.
They are going to keep battling through shooting slumps and aren’t going to just throw it in Spangler or Lattin for an easy bucket.
“We were trying to find a flow offensively, trying to get stops so we could run out in transition and get the momentum going and get easy buckets,” guard Isaiah Cousins said.
Oklahoma, which faces Kansas on Saturday, knows its weakness, and maybe better yet, the Sooners know that other teams are aware as well. Still, they’ve won two of their last three with the blueprint more than clear. The Sooners have a way of beating the physicality that they’ve seen at times – and it’s not just with a late, almost-miraculous surge from the player of the year frontrunner.
The Sooners have shown toughness these last two games, mentally and physically, to help recover when things haven’t gone their exactly their way early in games.
“We needed to do that as a team,” Spangler said. “We need to be physical and try to push people around and keep it fair.”
The offense changed a bit in the second half against Texas as Oklahoma started attacking the basket more than relying on its jump shooting. On defense, the Sooners switched at four positions instead of just the three perimeter spots to help combat exactly what Texas was doing offensively.
The lead slowly whittled away until it was gone, and Oklahoma won despite shooting 40 percent from the field and 41 percent from behind the arc.
Oklahoma has its Plan A.
Like any team, it wants to do what it does best first. Monday night showed that the Sooners’ go-to plan is beatable, but it also showed that they have a Plan B as well.
“It became a contest of attacking off the dribble and making plays for each other,” Oklahoma coach Lon Kruger said. “ Nothing pretty about that but just kind of throw the gloves down and forget about all the other stuff but just attack each other off the dribble.”