If you grew familiar with the Oklahoma basketball team last year, you may have remembered a lot of offense and not much defense. If so, you probably have a hard time recognizing this year's squad.
Oklahoma has completely remade itself on the defensive end and it was the Sooners' defense that led to an 82-63 romp over Missouri Friday night.
A close, ugly affair in the first half turned into a blowout in the second half as Oklahoma quit relying on its halfcourt offense to generate points and instead turned to its defense to get easy buckets and regain confidence it didn't have last week in the Bahamas.
When the confidence returned, it was bad news for the Tigers.
Up just 21-20 after a sluggish first 12 minutes, Oklahoma turned up the pressure and rattled off a 16-5 run over the last eight minutes of the half to go into halftime up 37-25. The Sooners swiped eight steals in the first half and forced 10 Missouri turnovers overall in the first 20 minutes.
After the break, the script remained the same. Oklahoma continued to pile it on, scoring the first 15 points of the second half before Montaque Gill-Caesar hit a 3-pointer, five minutes and 11 seconds into the second half. Altogether, it was a 31-5 run for the Sooners, a dominating run that ended any drama that may have lingered from the first half.
The Sooners enjoyed a balanced performance, but more importantly, an efficient performance from its main offensive threats.
Buddy Hield shook off a disappointing trip home to the Bahamas (shooting-wise) to score 17 points on 6-of-11 shooting. Isaiah Cousins added 16 on 6-of-9 shooting, including a perfect 3-for-3 from 3-point range. It was Cousins who was the lone bright spot early for the Sooners. Cousins scored 11 of the Sooners first 19 points, keeping the Oklahoma offense from completely sinking.
But it was Ryan Spangler who led the Sooners with 18 points. With Spangler and TaShawn Thomas, the Sooners have a pair of very talented post players that need touches in the offense. To ignore those guys would be a disservice to the team. The Sooners ran a lot of the offense through Spangler on Friday and it resulted in a 7-of-8 shooting performance, including two more 3-pointers. Thomas finished with nine points and also had five blocks.
Overall, the Sooners had a successful trip to the Bahamas. After all, losing to Wisconsin is nothing to be ashamed of. But there were still plenty of things revealed the Sooners need to improve as the season goes forward.
Friday night was a step in that direction and if the Sooners improve at that rate each week the rest of the year, Oklahoma could have a very special year.