Tough Road Lies Ahead for Sooner Men's Hoops
OU head coach Jeff Capel
OU head coach Jeff Capel
Special to SI
Posted Feb 7, 2011


OU faces a pair of ranked teams, including No.3 Texas and No. 13 Missouri, this week.

GETTING INSIDE

Shortcomings prevalent in loss at Oklahoma State

Although it carried 45-percent shooting accuracy and a winning record into the game that marked the halfway point of Big 12 play, Oklahoma obviously was overcoming some issues.

The Sooners aren't deep, nor altogether talented when stacked against other conference rivals. But coach Jeff Capel had found a way to toughen his team while also getting it to execute well on any instructions he delivered.

In an 81-75 loss at Oklahoma State on Feb. 5, however, Capel noticed the Sooners take a step back. They failed to protect a 15-point lead they built in the first half and were guilty of 27 fouls while failing to block out a few times in getting outrebounded 38-28.

"We have to learn from this. We have to make sure we're tougher," said senior guard Cade Davis. "We can't be satisfied with our four (conference) wins or be happy with the (15-point) lead we had."

The Sooners dropped to 12-10 overall and 4-4 in the Big 12 after building a four-game winning streak and surprising those who felt Oklahoma would potentially slip into last place before the halfway point in the conference race.

Still, OU needs everyone functioning, some at a high level, to win, especially on the road. And at Oklahoma State, inadequacies developed.

Cameron Clark, a freshman guard capable of hot streaks, was held scoreless. Carl Blair committed six turnovers against no assists running the point. Only one starter, forward Andrew Fitzgerald, shot better than 50 percent, spoiling a 7-of-8 performance Oklahoma got from its thin bench.

NOTES, QUOTES

--Jeff Capel tried to restrain himself when asked about the 27 fouls whistled against Oklahoma in a Feb. 5 loss at Oklahoma State. But after initially declining comment, the Sooner coach acknowledged that he "never had (an opponent) shoot 44 free throws." That's how many attempts the Cowboys were allowed, and they sank 36 to offset a red-hot 24-of-26 performance at the line by the Sooners.

--After going 11 of 19 and scoring 25 points three days earlier in a 73-66 victory against Baylor, G Cameron Clark only attempted three shots at Oklahoma State and went scoreless in 29 minutes. His only try in the second half was an air ball, which appeared to affect the confidence of the 6-6 freshman.

BY THE NUMBERS: 3 -- Consecutive games Oklahoma recorded season lows in Big 12 play for turnovers. The Sooners committed 12 turnovers at Iowa State on Jan. 29, 12 against Baylor on Feb. 2 and 11 at Oklahoma State on Feb. 5.

QUOTE TO NOTE: "With the way we started (a 21-6 lead) there's no way we were full of ourselves (riding a four-game win streak). There's absolutely no way. That shouldn't be printed. That shouldn't be said. That shouldn't be insinuated. We came out and we fought." -- Oklahoma coach Jeff Capel after the 81-75 loss at Oklahoma State.

STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL

THIS WEEK'S GAMES:

--vs. Texas, Feb. 9.

KEY MATCHUPS: Oklahoma exceeded expectations as much as any team in the Big 12 during the first half of conference play largely because of the advantage the Sooners capitalized on at home. Texas, however, presents the toughest challenge to date. The Longhorns have an outstanding rotation, with any number of offensive contributors and even more effective with their lock-down, physical defense.

--at Missouri, Feb. 12.

KEY MATCHUPS: This is a dastardly double, playing Texas and then traveling to Mizzou. The Tigers are much more effective at home and capable of blowing out opponents if they can force turnovers and convert them into baskets. A deep backcourt allows Missouri to rotate several backcourt players. Three guards, Marcus Denmon, Michael Dixon and Phil Pressey, rank among the top 10 Big 12 leaders in steals.

FUTURES MARKET: Without much depth, Oklahoma needs all its starters to execute well and also battle tough on the boards, despite the Sooners' reliance on forward Andrew Fitzgerald as the only big man who contributes significant minutes some nights. The bench, however, is beginning to come around. Four reserves played 12 or more minutes in the Feb. 5 loss at Oklahoma State, and the subs combined to go 7-of-8 from the field. If the Sooners continue to improve and gain confidence, Oklahoma could factor into the middle of the Big 12 race.

PLAYER NOTES

--Sophomore G Carl Blair had a great stat line in the Feb. 2 win against Baylor, with 19 points, seven assists, five rebounds and three steals. In the loss at Oklahoma State, Blair had six turnovers against no assists, and his 13 points came mostly off 9-of-9 shooting from the foul line as he went 2-of-9 from the field.

--Sophomore F Andrew Fitzgerald fouled out of the Baylor win after scoring 10 points over 32 minutes, then logged 39 minutes at Oklahoma State and shared team-high honors with 18 points on 7-of-12 shooting.

--Junior F Barry Honore made all three of his attempts and also grabbed three rebounds as a backup who played 13 minutes at Oklahoma State.



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