The Oklahoma Sooners basketball team unofficially tipped off off the season Saturday with an exhibition game against Washburn. Of course, 99 percent of the time, D-I teams will win these types of games, but they are good barometers for things such as style of play, key players, and team trends. Here are some circumspect observations from the Sooners’ 104-76 victory:
- Tempo: Lon Kruger has always been an advocate of up-tempo style, and three years into his tenure, Sooner fans may see that style come to fruition. The Oklahoma guards zipped up and down the court and, pleasantly surprising, the post players were able to keep up with them. This speedy pace led to 104 points scored by the Sooners, a number that would make Billy Tubbs proud. Though the competition may not have forced a strenuous effort by the Sooners, the way the pace worked in their favor was encouraging. However, at times they looked a bit sloppy, committing 16 turnovers. They still have plenty of acclimating to do before the regular season begins, but expect the Sooners to run, run, and run.
- Free Throws: Again, the Sooners were efficient from the stripe, where they ranked highly all last year. The Sooners not only shot well (87%), but were effective in getting to the line. They drew 19 fouls which resulted in them taking 23 foul shots. It looks as if this trend is here to stay.
- Cameron Clark: The highly-touted high school prospect has so far underwhelmed in his three years with the Sooners. He has tantalized fans with his immense athleticism and potential, but so far hasn’t emerged into the star many expected him to become. This season, it could be different. If Saturday’s performance was a harbinger of things to come, Clark cemented himself as the Sooners’ go-to-guy. The senior scored 23 points on 8-13 shooting, and grabbed seven rebounds. He maintains his ability to get to the rim, but most impressive, he drastically improved his shooting. Clark nailed three three-pointers after attempting only one all of last season, and was hitting him 2-point jumpers with consistency, too. With this new element, Clark figures to be a lethal weapon for the Sooners offense this season. With his athleticism and length, he will also be able to challenge opponents on defense. In a year when the Sooners desperately need him to, Cameron Clark could finally realize his potential.
- Three point shooting: Clark wasn’t the only one to catch fire from beyond the arc. Freshman Jordan Woodard went 2-for-2 and Buddy Hield went 2-for-3 from long range. Overall, the team was 10-for-23 (43.5%) from three.
- Buddy Hield: When Hield took the floor today, there was an aesthetic difference about him. He was wearing the number 24—Romero Osby’s former number—perhaps to serve as an allusion to him taking over as a leader, as Osby did last season. Hield certainly played as Osby did last season—efficiently. The sophomore had 21 points while shooting 7-for-11 from the floor, and five rebounds—four of which were offensive. He looked his usual energetic self after aggravating an injury from last season early in the offseason, which caused him to miss game action on the team’s Europe trip.
- Jordan Woodard: Woodard started at point guard for the Sooners, and did not disappoint. Not only did he lead the frantic pace of the Sooners offense, he excelled in it, scoring 15 points and dishing four assists. Though he had four turnovers, he maneuvered the offense well. One must remember he is only a freshman, and will need time to mature, but he looks promising.
- Ryan Spangler and D.J. Bennett: Spangler showed his rebounding prowess today, leading the team with eight boards. He was also very efficient offensively, shooting 80% and scoring 10 points. Bennett played in limited minutes, due to a foot injury. He was impressive in the short time he was in the game, and figures to be a key factor in the post for the Sooners this season.
- Injuries: Isaiah Cousins suffered an ankle sprain in the first half, and did not return to the game. Woodard went out late in the second, which seemed alarming, but it was only cramps. Kruger also confirmed to Toby Roland on the Sooner postgame radio show that Cousins should be fine, and worst case scenario, he doesn’t play in the Sooners final exhibition game on Monday. Je’lon Hornbeak did not play today due to a foot injury.
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