, Muskogee, OK

December 5, 2013

Matinee mauling: Sooners roll in afternoon battle

By John Shinn

— NORMAN — Oklahoma guard Buddy Hield admitted Thursday night wasn’t a deal he’d like to see repeated. The winter storm shoved the tip-off time for Thursday’s game with Texas A&M-Corpus Christi up five hours. The native of the Bahamas wasn’t thrilled with dealing with ice and snow.

“It’s not my style,” he said.

But for two hours on Lloyd Noble Center’s floor, everything fit him well. The sophomore scored a game-high 18 points to help propel the Sooners to a 78-56 victory over the Islanders.

The win was OU’s third straight and continued a trend of improved defense. It forced a season-high 20 turnovers and turned them into 22 points. Hield had two of OU’s 10 steals.

“We’re just trying to be active on defense and bring our activity up every day,” Hield said. “We want to get stops and run out and score the basketball. That’s what we’re trying to do. We can get as may turnovers as we need and that gives us opportunities to score the basketball.”

The Sooners didn’t have a typical offensive day. The 76 points matched their season low. They had scored 197 in the two games leading up to Thursday’s contest.

But the 56 points OU allowed were 23 fewer than the average it allowed through the previous seven games.

The emphasis has been on defense over the last few weeks. OU coach Lon Kruger has shifted practices more in that direction since the beginning of the season.

One thing to come out of Thursday’s game was the play of backup forward D.J. Bennett. The junior scored nine points but he also added five blocked shots in a season-high 14 minutes on the floor.

Preventing points has been the emphasis with Bennett.

“It was mainly just being a presence defensively,” Bennett said. “Coach and the rest of the staff emphasize that every day in practice. I just try to help as much as I can on defense.”

Like the rest of the games this season, offense has not been a problem. The Sooners shot 45.3 percent (29 of 64). Isaiah Cousins was the only other OU player to score in double figures, but the scoring was spread around. Frank Booker also added nine points. Cameron Clark and Jordan Woodard both finished with eight points apiece.

Texas A&M-Corpus Christi (3-7) picked up 12 points from Rashawn Thomas and 11 from John Jordan. But it lacked the offensive firepower to give OU a serious threat. It shot just 38.2 percent (21 of 55) and trailed by double digits throughout the final 27 minutes of the game.

“I thought our guys handled everything pretty well,” Kruger said. “They got off to a pretty good start, got a margin early. They continued to handle the ball pretty well and shared the ball very well. We did pretty well on the defensive field goal percentage … Good day.”