NO. 12 OKLAHOMA LOOKS TO END FOUR-GAME ROAD LOSING SKID WITH ROAD CONTEST AT TEXAS
Playing away from the Lloyd Noble Center has been unfriendly to No. 12 Oklahoma (16-5, 6-3), and they will be tested once again in front of a sellout crowd in the hardwood version of OU-Texas. Texas (14-8, 4-5) has emerged as another NCAA Tournament caliber team in the Big 12, and were seconds away from ending Texas Tech’s 13-game home winning streak on Wednesday night before having their hearts ripped out by a Keenan Evans buzzer-beater.
The Sooners, on the other hand, got back in the win column on Tuesday night with a 98-96 win. They had lost three of their last four before taking down the Bears, and still remain only a game back of Kansas in the Big 12 race. Oklahoma is in the hunt for a Big 12 regular season title, and will need to end their road woes against a quality team–and their biggest rival–for it to continue.
WHEN: 5:15 p.m. CST
WHERE: Austin, Texas
LISTEN: 107.7 The Franchise OKC; KTBZ 1430 AM in Tulsa
MORE THAN A GAME
When Oklahoma and Texas meet, the blood boils a little bit more than usual, tempers flare, and trash is talked. It is common that those who love sports have a hard time realizing that life does go on past a game. Today, we will all be reminded of that as the Sooners will wear new warmup shirts in support of Texas guard Andrew Jones, who was diagnosed with Leukemia.
Freshman point guard Trae Young was close with Jones, and even spent time training with him during his high school career. When talking about his friend, Young spoke with a softer tone than he usual does.
“Me and Andrew (Jones) are really close,” Young said. “We were working out a lot the past two summers. Last Christmas I was down there in Dallas for like two weeks training with him and Tim Martin.
“So, we have a really good relationship. So…it’s very tough hearing what’s going on with him. Praying very, very hard to him.”
Texas has put Jones’ initials on their uniforms and sold t-shirts for people to wear to games in support of him during this fight.
JAMUNI MCNEACE AND CHRISTIAN JAMES EXPECTED BACK
It was announced prior to the game on Tuesday against Baylor that Christian James was out with flu-like symptoms. At practice on Thursday, James participated some, but spent the end of practice sitting on the sidelines with a towel over his head. Lon Kruger expects him and Jamuni McNeace–who sat out the second half of Baylor with soreness from an ankle injury that he suffered during the last Bedlam–back for Texas.
“I think he will be fine. Little bit still recovering,” Kruger said after practice about Christian James on Thursday. “But good to have him out there, and moving in the right direction.”
“Yes, much better,” Kruger said about Jamuni McNeace. “Tuesday it was close, but it was a little bit tender and instead of setting him back, we said we wanted to hold him out and give him a couple more days of recovery…and I think he’ll be 100 percent by Saturday.”
EFFICIENCY IS KEY
Teams have put certain gameplans in for Trae Young that they do not show on tape against other opponents. Whether it is full denial of him from the ball, double-teaming him once he crosses half-court, or a certain junk defense like a box-and-one, Young’s seen it all this season. It may be difficult for a freshman to grasp how he is being defended at all in a game, but it doesn’t take the Oklahoma freshman point guard long.
“It only takes me like five minutes,” Young said. “I know teams are going to different stuff against me each and every game. So as soon as I come in, the first five minutes I know exactly how they are going to play in regards to that type of defense at that moment.
“I know how to pick my spots, and I know I’m starting to getting better at knowing what they are doing.”
The time it takes to figure out how Texas is defending Young and his teammates is going to be a huge factor in this game and going forward. When he is shooting better than 40 percent, the Sooners record is significantly better (13-1). In the games he is shooting less than 40 percent, Young’s assist-to-turnover rate also drops from 2.01 assists-to-turnovers a game to 1.33 assists-to-turnovers a game. It is a tall task for a freshman to figure out a defense through the heat of a game, but Young and the Sooners are tough to beat when he can figure that out as soon as possible and be efficient throughout a game.
THE RACE GOES ON
After three early losses, it looked like Oklahoma’s focus was going to be moved from competing for a Big 12 regular season title to looking ahead to March. With their wins at home against Kansas and Baylor, the Sooners kept themselves right in the thick of the Big 12 race. At this point last season, things were drastically different—Oklahoma was thinking about the offseason rather than a Big 12 Championship.
“Mentally, we’re just looking to fight and get better with each game, each practice, and each workout,” senior Khadeem Lattin said about the mentality of where the team is at now opposed to last year. “Last year, we hated the results we got, and we all worked for better results, and we starting to show and come to life-form. So, we’re going to continue to fight, and fight every night.”
No. 12 Oklahoma holds the tiebreaker against Texas Tech for the right to be second in the Big 12, but both are only a game back from Kansas. The Sooners and Red Raiders also hold the tiebreaker over Kansas.