Post-Orlando Oklahoma Reset

Posted by Justin Fedich on November 23rd, 2016

Oklahoma didn’t make it to the championship game against Xavier at the Tire Pros Invitational but nearly everything else over the weekend in Orlando fell the Sooners’ way. An 89-70 win over Tulane was followed up by a blown lead against Northern Iowa (which knows a little something about blown leads) to lose 73-67 in overtime. The Sooners bounced back with a 70-64 victory against Clemson in the third place game on Sunday to notch a nice resume-enhancing win. Here are three takeaways from Oklahoma’s third place finish at the Tire Pros Invitational last weekend.

Jordan Woodard is clearly 'the guy' in Norman this year. (Sooner Sports)

Jordan Woodard is clearly ‘the guy’ in Norman this year. (Sooner Sports)

  1. Oklahoma’s bench is still a work in progress. This was to be expected considering that Lon Kruger’s bench rotation consists of two freshmen, Matt Freeman and Kameron McGusty; a transfer, Darrion Strong; and a sophomore (Jamuni McNeace) who averaged fewer than eight minutes per game last season. In the Tulane game, no bench player scored more than six points, although McNeace was able to pull down nine rebounds. In the Northern Iowa game, no bench player scored more than three points. Against Clemson, McGusty found a rhythm, going 6-of-8 from the field and scoring 14 points. Still, Kruger is giving 37 percent of his minutes to the bench without a corresponding level of production. He needs more.
  2. Jordan Woodard is clearly the man. While Oklahoma’s young players come into their own, Woodard will be asked to carry much of the load. Through the three-game event, Woodard either led the Sooners outright in scoring or tied for the team lead, averaging over 18 points, six assists and five rebounds per game. While production has been inconsistent from the senior’s supporting cast, Oklahoma’s defense has given the Sooners a cushion. While Kruger’s team ranks just 48th in adjusted offensive efficiency, according to KenPom, the Sooners rank 19th in adjusted defensive efficiency. Oklahoma’s stout defense, which focuses on taking away the paint, has kept the Sooners in every game so far as they look to find another consistent scoring threat alongside Woodard.
  3. Christian James can shoot. While Woodard is the unquestioned leader of this team, James proved against Clemson that he too can be trusted to win a game. It was the sophomore guard who helped his team pull away from the surging Tigers in the second half, going 5-of-5 from three-point range for the game and knocking down several key triples down the stretch. He has now hit 71.4 percent of his three-point attempts on the season. Behind Woodard and Khadeem Lattin, James will be expected to play a big offensive role for the Sooners this season. Oklahoma will need to be ready to call upon his occasional hot hand when the time comes.

The Sooners will have an opportunity to continue ironing out the wrinkles in its next two games at home against Abilene Christian and Northern Colorado. Their next big test comes on December 3 when Oklahoma travels to Wisconsin.

Justin Fedich (11 Posts)

Justin Fedich is a sports journalism graduate of the University of Georgia. You can follow him on Twitter @jfedich.

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