For weeks, Oklahoma has talked about improving its effort on the defensive end of the floor after being one of the worst defensive teams in all of college basketball last season. Through the first four games of the season, there were signs of improvement, but Thursday's game against Butler showed the Sooners' commitment to defense is real.
Oklahoma held Butler to just 23.7 percent shooting, the lowest total for an OU opponent in over a decade, and the Sooners cruised past the Bulldogs, 59-46 in the Battle 4 Atlantis semifinals.
The Sooners held the Bulldogs without a point for over 16 minutes of game action on Thursday. Oklahoma held Butler without a point for 7:34 in the first half, which allowed the Sooners to turn a tie game at 8 into a 24-8 lead with 8:23 to play in the first half. Oklahoma shot 65 percent in the first half and led at halftime, 36-24.
In the second half, the Bulldogs cut the Sooners' lead to eight points a few minutes into the half, but the Sooners responded with defense once again, holding Butler without a point for 8:33 while expanding the lead from 36-28 to 47-28.
It was a good thing the Sooners relied on defense on Thursday because the offense disappeared in the second half. The Sooners shot just 29 percent from the field in the second half but did make its only two 3-pointers of the game in the second 20 minutes.
A day after Oklahoma attempted 38 3-pointers against UCLA, the Sooners pounded the ball inside against Butler. The Sooners dominated the boards and also earned a lot of trips to the free throw line as a result, finishing the day 17-of-22 from the charity stripe. Oklahoma outscored the Bulldogs in the paint, 30-18.
Isaiah Cousins led the Sooners with 13 points and also grabbed eight rebounds. Jordan Woodard and TaShawn Thomas each scored 10 points while Ryan Spangler grabbed 10 rebounds.
Kellen Dunham was the only Butler player in double-figures, finishing with a game-high 17 points.
Oklahoma will take on No. 2 Wisconsin in the tournament championship at 3:30 p.m. CST on Friday.