Oklahoma has to find an answer before road game vs. West Virginia

Struggling on both ends of the court, Saturday's matchup is big for the Sooners - for its record and its mentality

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

No. 3 Oklahoma Sooners (20-5, 8-5) at No. 10 West Virginia Mountaineers (20-6, 9-4)

TV/Radio: ESPN/107.7 FM

Time: 3 p.m.

Series: Oklahoma, 7-3

Everything’s not OK

What’s wrong with Oklahoma? Buddy Hield taking on too much pressure? Ryan Spangler and Khadeem Lattin having almost disappeared?

The entire team is in a shooting slump, knocking down less than 32 percent from behind the arc over the last four games after shooting better than 50 before the losing stretch. Oklahoma has failed in the final two minutes in the last two games.

“You can’t keep saying everything’s OK,” Oklahoma coach Lon Kruger said. “You’re not getting results, so you’ve got to change things. We’ve got to do things a little bit differently to get better results.”

Oklahoma has posted its worst shooting stretch of the season and is in the middle of its worst losing episode since last January. The Sooners compete level is down to almost nothing after watching opponents dive for lose balls and doing nothing to battle back in the final minutes.

“We just have to figure it out,” Hield said. “We’re all grown. We just have to come together and do what we need to do, no matter who is scoring. Everyone has to do their job and do their role.”

Jordan Woodard seems to have come out of his slump, saying that his confidence has increased drastically since his 25-point game against Texas Tech and that “the lid is off the basket.” But it is still on the basket early in games for the Sooners, who have gone nearly 2-for-20 in back-to-back games. It’s caused a dip in the compete level.

“It shouldn’t,” Woodard said. “When we’re not making shots, we’ve just got rely on stronger defense and give more effort. We’ve got to figure that out quickly. . . . That’s why we’ve been losing games.”

Front court de-evolving

When Oklahoma was at its best, Spangler was knocking down 3-pointers from the top of the key and giving interior spacing to the Sooners’ guard-oriented offense. The Sooners were an elite team when Lattin was the most dangerous rim protector in the Big 12 Conference.

Over the last four games, neither of those is true.

Spangler hasn’t hit a 3-pointer since January. He has missed his last 12. Lattin has just one block in the last four games, but he does have 15 fouls and just 12 points.

“It changes everything,” Kruger said of Spangler missing his shots. “Anytime people are making shots, it spreads people a little bit and they guard a bigger area. It makes a big difference.”

Oklahoma tried to get Spangler involved in the offense on the first possession of the second half against Texas Tech by throwing it to him on the post, which turned into a made jump shot and snapped a Texas Tech scoring run.

Spangler said that he’s out of rhythm. The developed stretch-4 who came to Oklahoma as a plodder was hitting 40 percent of his shots from behind the arc. Now, he just needs one to fall.

“When I was hitting shots, it was opening things up for other players,” Spangler said. “That’s what I have to do for this team. When shots aren’t falling, I have to figure out other ways to score.”

Lattin was averaging more than four blocks per game in Big 12 play before the last four games. He said that the coaching staff pointed out to him that he’s only blocking with one hand – not attacking the basketball in the air.

There are a lot of adjustments that he needs to make and didn’t point to one specifically.

“Teams are just watching films, they're changing things around, they're attacking differently so we just have to adjust to their adjustments,” Lattin said.

No time vs. WVU

Hield had a wide-open look in transition against Texas Tech, something he hasn’t had in more than a month. But he passed it up, almost believing that a defender would be there as soon as he caught the ball. Instead, he took a dribble and a contested jump shot that missed.

That sort of hesitancy plagued Oklahoma against the Red Raiders. West Virginia will feed off of it.

“Against them, we have to catch the ball and look around before we do anything,” Spangler said. “When we do something, make sure it’s the right move.”

West Virginia is first in the nation in turnovers forced, averaging 18.62 per game. The full-court press is well known and highly regarded. The Mountaineers might be running it as well as they ever have un coach Bob Huggins.

Oklahoma has seen it once before, and it almost resulted in the Sooners’ first home loss of the season.

“We're going to have to go out there and just play,” Lattin said. “We can game plan for them as much as possible but the way that they play. They force you to make game decisions so kind of getting the chemistry back and figuring it out is something that we're really focusing on and will do.”


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