By MICHAEL KINNEY
NORMAN — Mercer coach Bob Hoffman thought his team played fast. Averaging close to 90 points a game, they usually ran opponents to the ground.
However, when the Bears faced Oklahoma Monday, they encountered a squad that they could not keep up with.
The Sooners defeated the Bears 96-82 at Lloyd Noble Center.
“That was a serious butt-whooping from the beginning against a really good team,” Hoffman said. “It was amazing watching them on tape. They make shots. It’s not real complicated.”
Led by Bobby Hield, all five Oklahoma starters scored in double figures. The sophomore guard waited until the second half to heat up as he scored 14 of his 20 points after halftime. But once he got going, Oklahoma was able to run away from Mercer with ease.
Hield shot 6-for-11 from the floor to pace the Sooners (6-1). Ryan Spangler added 20 points and 13 rebounds. Cameron Clark scored 19 points before leaving the game late in the second half with a headache.
“It’s good and it is great for the team,” Hield said. “Everybody is unselfish and we make plays for each other. We are just trying to stay consistent on the basketball court.”
Monty Brown led the Bears (5-4) with 16 points. Sophomore Phillip Leonard came off the bench to post 12 points in the defeat.
“We weren’t hitting too many shots” Leonard said. “Defensively we weren’t as good as we usually are. But we battled and played hard.”
Defense was not at a premium for either team to start the night. Mercer and Oklahoma were off and running from the opening whistle and rarely let the shot clock get under the 20 second mark before hoisting up a shot.
However, it was the Sooners who were more adept at playing this style as they jumped out to a 30-17 lead halfway through the first half. That included Clark making a fade away 3-pointer as he was being fouled.
Clark has been shooting the ball well from the perimeter consistently throughout the early part of the season. It continued against Mercer.
When Clark wasn’t knocking down perimeter shots, Spangler was having his way in the paint. He had six rebounds in the first half, which led to 13 points for the sophomore.
“Our pace is fast for sure,” Spangler said. “We want to be fast as a team. But we base ourselves off defense. If we can get stops, then we can run out. But we want to worry about defense first.”
With their outside shooting failing them, the Bears had a difficult time manufacturing points and Oklahoma led 45-32 at half.
Led by Hield, the Sooners began the second half on an 18-0 run. He scored 11 points during a four minute span to catch the Bears off guard.
“I didn’t know it was an 18-0 run,” Hield said. “We were just making shots and trying to get stops. Just playing Oklahoma basketball.”
Leonard came in to provide a slight spark for the Bears. The sophomore found his shot from the outside and forced himself into the lane, where he was able to pick up fouls on the Sooners.
“I was just trying to be aggressive,” Leonard said. “That’s what the coaches always want me to do. Attack, get to the line, get to the rim. Make plays for others.”
However, Mercer’s offense was shut down in all other areas. They finished the contest with only eight 3-pointers and shot 43.5 percent from the field
Mercer entered the game allowing only 73 points per game and holding opponents to 48 percent shooting. Oklahoma shot 30-for-59 on the night.
“The good thing about this group, they are not at all concerned about who’s scoring,” Oklahoma coach Lon Kruger said. “They just want to keep moving the ball and keep making plays for each other.”