HCS Op-Ed: Oklahoma Hoops Lives and Dies by the Three

I’m not going do it. I’m not going complain.

I’m not going complain about the 35.5 seconds Kansas State received on the shot clock on Marcus Foster’s controversial three. I’m not going complain about Ryan Spangler fouling out with 8:17 left on the game clock due to crap fouls. And I’m not going complain about the non-call of the shot clock violation which led to Marcus Foster’s (who else) second game-winning three pointer against the Sooners this season. I’m going take the high road, and say that the Sooners lost this game because of their long range shooting.

The Sooners shot 3-17 (17.6%) from three point range, an inexcusable number by their standards. They are shooting 35.2% on the season. If you’ve watched Oklahoma play at all this season, you would have a pretty good idea that they live and die by the three ball.

Long range shots were the key to the Sooners’ five game winning streak. During the stretch in which they beat Texas Tech, Oklahoma State, West Virginia, TCU and Iowa State, the team shot an incredible 43.8% from three, including a ridiculous 14-29 against ISU. So, it obviously plays a big role in the team’s offense.

It’s honestly difficult to understand why teams aren’t more capable of shutting down OU on offense. Usually, they form a triangle at the top of the key with Woodard, Cousins and Hield and run in lines back and forth while setting screens for each other. Then once there’s an opening for a possible drive to the basket, they either take it, flip it to Thomas or Spangler or kick it back out for a three.

But, maybe that’s the beauty of it. Maybe simplicity is Lon Kruger’s secret to success.

Also, Oklahoma may not have a choice but to play this continuously moving style of basketball due to its lack of size. Tayshawn Thomas and Ryan Spangler are tiny twin towers (for their positions), with both standing 6’8”. Spangler makes up for it in his potential to be an inside-out player and his rebounding ability, but Thomas is purely an inside force.

So, because of their lack of size, they have to beat you with the guards. In this respect, it’s a mystery how Kansas State has been able to hold the Sooners to under 65 points both times they’ve faced off. The Sooners actually own the size advantage over the Wildcats. Maybe it was being in front of a Manhattan crowd (this time), or maybe it was the return of Marcus Foster from his three game suspension for a violation of team rules. Maybe it’s even OU’s poor record away from home (4-5).

But they did it both times. Kudos, Wildcats.

It’s not a secret that the Sooners’ key to success is shooting threes well. When it works, it’s beautiful. But when it doesn’t, wins are hard to come by. Living and dying by the three is a scary strategy to live by. But, for better or for worse, it will determine how far the Sooners ultimately go in March.

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