Coming off a nine-day holiday break, Oklahoma sure looked like it had eaten one too many Christmas cookies at the start of Wednesday's game against George Mason.
But the Sooners clamped down on the defensive end and did enough on offense to close out 2014 with a 61-43 win at Lloyd Noble Center.
The win closed out the non-conference portion of the Sooners' schedule, which Oklahoma went through with a 9-3 record. Saturday begins conference play, as OU hosts Baylor at 3 p.m. While the Sooners would clearly rather be undefeated, a 9-3 mark isn't a bad place to be going into the rigorous Big 12 schedule.
Wednesday, the Sooners won with defense, holding the Patriots to just 29.5 percent shooting and a 0-of-14 mark from 3-point range. Overall, it wasn't a good shooting day for George Mason, which also was just 7-of-15 from the free throw line.
No GMU players scored in double figures.
The Sooners weren't anything impressive on offense themselves, shooting just 40 percent for the game and hitting just six shots in the second half. OU managed to build a big lead and keep it thanks to a strong showing at the free throw line in the second half.
Buddy Hield led all scorers with 17 points but had just two of those after halftime. Isaiah Cousins scored 11 points, but had an off-day from the field.
The most impressive performance of the day may have come from freshman Khadeem Lattin. With TaShawn Thomas saddled with foul trouble for much of the day, Lattin came off the bench to score five points and grab nine rebounds, four of those on the offensive end. Lattin also had a big impact on the defensive end, blocking two shots and helping to limit the Patriots' offensive abilities.
Lattin's performance was really encouraging, particularly after the Sooners' loss to Washington on Dec. 20, when the bench played 28 minutes and scored just four points. If Oklahoma is going to challenge in the Big 12 this season, it's going to need more performances like Lattin delivered on Wednesday.
Overall, the Sooners are right where they want to be heading into conference play. There is plenty of work to be done, but there are signs Oklahoma can be the quality team many thought it could be when Thomas was ruled eligible the day before the season started.
It's a rugged road in the Big 12 conference, and the Sooners are starting down that path on Saturday, setting their sights on big things.