Following wins against two of college basketball’s “nobodies” the Oklahoma Sooners (2-0) will head to Disneyland in Anaheim, California for the 76 Classic where they will take on the Washington State Cougars (2-1). Tip-off will be at 10:30 PM CST Thursday. This will likely serve as the first real test for the Sooners, and will answer many of the question marks surrounding the team this season. Here’s a preview of Thursday night’s contest.
Interesting Gameday Facts:
- The game Thursday marks the first meeting between Washington State and Oklahoma. This will also be the first appearance by the Sooners in the 76 Classic Tournament.
- Sooners head coach Lon Kruger, won the 76 Classic in 2010-2011 while coaching at UNLV. He returns to the bracket this season looking to make history and become the first coach to win back to back 76 titles pending on if he can lead the Sooners to the championship.
- Over the past 10 seasons the Sooners are 14-8 versus Pac-12 schools (including Utah and Colorado).
- Both teams were picked to finish 10th in their respective conferences.
Previewing Washington State:
- Jr. PG Reggie Moore 6’1” 178 lb.- Moore isn’t the most prolific scorer, but you’ll still need to guard him, he proved this by scoring 14 points versus Gonzaga. What he really excels at however, is distributing the ball. He is averaging 5.7 assists per contest over three games this season. In addition, his quickness allows him to be a force on the defensive end swiping 2.3 steals in the three games.
- Sr. G Marcus Capers 6’4” 179 lb.- The Sooners likely won’t spend much time game planning offensively for Capers, because he doesn’t serve much of a threat. The 6-foot-4 guard has never averaged more than seven points a contest in his career. He hardly ever takes threes, and if he does it’s a rare occasion he makes them. But like Moore, Capers can serve as a distributor as well as defensive presence. It’s the intangibles, the little things, that Capers does that makes him a valuable asset to this Cougars squad.
- Sr. G Fasial Aden 6’4” 179 lb.- With Klay Thompson gone, Aden will get his chance to shine as the premier scorer on the wing for the Cougars. He’s already gotten off to a nice start, and the scary thing is he’s getting progressively better with each game scoring 12 in the opener, then 18, and 21 in the succeeding game. Unlike the others, he serves a substantial threat from behind the three point line, shooting a noteworthy 50% (5-10) on the season. However, there is one similarity between him and the other guards. He is a quality defender, he recorded a career high of five steals against Sacramento State this season. Are you starting to notice a trend here?
- Sr. F Charlie Enquist 6’10” 230 lb.- Enquist doesn’t shoot much but when he does, watch out. He’s making an incredible 83% of the shots he puts up. In his last game against Portland he, banged inside and got to the line making four out of five free throw attempts, to score eight points. If he is able to duplicate that performance, the Sooners had better be put on notice.
- Jr. F Brock Motum 6’10” 245 lb.– Much like Aden, Motum will look to be the go-to-guy in the low post for the Cougars now that DeAngelo Casto is out of the picture. So far, he’s done just that averaging 17.6 points and 6.7 rebounds in the early portion of the season. He’s also displayed his unique range, shooting 50% (2-4) from three on the season. The Sooners may struggle to contain a bigger, taller, Motum in the low post.
- 6th Man: Fr. DaVonte Lacy 6’3” 206 lb.- So far, the frosh has been very important piece to the puzzle for Washington State. Averaging 12 points and three assists in just over 20 minutes a contest is very impressive to say the least. Similar to the other guards, he also possesses a knack for “pocket picking” averaging almost two steals a game. He will be key off the bench for the Cougars.
- Additional Notes: Watch for Mychal Ladd to log some major minutes off the bench as well.
Keys to the Game:
- Rebounding: Get used to it because you’re likely to see this key every game. It’s that big of a deal for the undersized Sooners this season. Games such as the Coppin State matchup Friday (OU outrebounded 61-27), aren’t going to fall into the Sooners lap on a nightly basis, they’re going to need to give 110% on the glass night in and night out. Especially in contests such as these where the opponent holds a clear size advantage.
- Ball Control: Going back to the “trend” mentioned earlier, Oklahoma are going to need to be very careful with the ball. The Cougar guards are steal savvy and won’t hesitate to pounce on any opportunity or error by the Sooners. 20 turnovers won’t do you any favors no matter who you’re facing but a team like this will eat you alive.
- Shoot the Zone: In the one game I was able to catch of the Cougars against Gonzaga, they played a lot of 2-3 zone. Gonzaga did end up winning that game the most effective way you can against a zone, by making their threes. Oklahoma will have to do much of the same if they look to come out on top here.
- Cameron Clark: The sophomore headed into the season poised for what seemed a likely breakout year. Yet, over the course of the first two games his play has seemed less than stellar, in fact worse than last season. The season is indeed; still young however, if the Sooners are to exceed expectations, they will first need Clark to live up to his. This is why Cameron Clark is the Sooner to Watch in this contest.
Bold Prediction: The Sooners get the big night they were looking for from Cameron Clark, and easily outshoot the zone. They have trouble maintaining control throughout the game, but make up for this with their effort on the glass, with another double-double performance from Romero Osby. The Sooners take this one by a score of 76-67.
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