Tahlequah Daily Press

Sports

March 13, 2014

Big 12 tournament holds great importance for OU

Sooners open up the Big 12 tournament on Thursday against Baylor in quarterfinals in Kansas City

(Continued)

OU basketball notebook



Sooners struggle from deep at Sprint Center
: Oklahoma guard Frank Booker has a routine before every game, but it intensifies when he’s playing at a new venue.

He watches some video of himself making shots.

“You look at the rims and concentrate on the rims, then I see myself shooting and making it every time,” he said.

Then he gets on the floor and visualizes doing the same. He takes a couple one-handed shots near the basket, then takes some jumpers from 15 feet before moving out beyond the 3-point line.

The freshman shot 39.1 percent from 3-point range this season. It’s just the fifth highest percentage on the team, but his older teammates might want to copy the routine before the 17th-ranked Sooners face Baylor at 6 p.m. today in the quarterfinals of the Big 12 tournament.

Getting a 3-pointer to fall at Sprint Center has been a rare occurrence over the last two years.

The Sooners are a combined 5 for 29 from beyond the 3-point arc since coach Lon Kruger led them here for the first time in 2012.

The Sooners shot 38.3 percent from 3-point range in Big 12 play this season and led the league in 3-point makes this season with 8.4 per game. They were 21 for 55 in the two regular-season meetings with the Bears, including connecting on a season-high 14 in the 88-72 win over the Bears on Feb. 8 at Lloyd Noble Center.

However, Sprint Center’s court wasn’t the only one OU used on Wednesday. It had a 40-minute shootaround at the site of the Big 12 tournament. Earlier in the day, it practiced at nearby Rockhurst University.

Stamina test: OU hasn’t played three games in three days all season. The last time it played on back-to-back days was in the Coaches vs. Cancer Classic in New York on Nov. 22 and 23. The Sooners topped Seton Hall, 86-85, and then fell to then-top-ranked Michigan State, 87-76.

“It is a challenge,” OU coach Lon Kruger said.

The Sooners have one of the deepest benches in the league. Nine players average at least 9.4 minutes a game. Only sophomore guard Buddy Hield has averaged more than 30 minutes a game this season.

Tough to win three: The Sooners will be trying to beat the Bears for the third time this season. If they can pull it off, it will be a rare feat. The last time OU beat a team three times in a season was Texas Tech in 2003.

An argument could be made the two hottest teams in the tournament will meet in the quarterfinals tonight.

“They’re very good,” Kruger said of the Bears. “They’re long and athletic inside and shoot it well from the perimeter. They have a good combination of stuff.”

No more watching: OU sophomore forward Ryan Spangler will play in the Big 12 tournament for the first time today. He was at the event last season, but couldn’t play because he was redshirting after transferring to OU from Gonzaga.

“When I was in high school, I always wanted to play here in front of all the fans,” The Tuttle native and Bridge Creek High School graduate said. “It didn’t originally work out that way, but now it has.”

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