Playing to OUr strengths

I’ve been thinking for a while that the Sooners’ tempo on offense has really slowed down as the season has gone along. I didn’t have really any evidence to support it — if you check out their number of possessions per game on KenPom, it’s down a little from the non-conference schedule, but not a lot — but it just seems like the offense really moves more slowly than when the team is winning. Maybe the tempo numbers are a little skewed by the fact that Trae Young takes 4-5 really quick 3’s. I just don’t know.

The defense against Young has been different, to be sure. Teams are picking him quickly as he crosses halfcourt and slowing the team down but it still seems like Young is walking the ball up the court much more often than he was early in the season. That doesn’t seem like who the team was at the beginning of the season when, coincidentally or not, the team was really rolling and made it up to #4 in the country.

I was watching one of those NCAA tournament preview shows and 1-by-1 many of those talking heads were ranting about the Sooners making it into the tournament and Tom Crean chimed in to defend the Sooners. He said that he’s called 3 OU games during the year, including the win at Wichita St. and he was going on and on about how tremendous they looked against the Shockers. He was talking about how quickly the Sooners were getting the ball down the court and scoring and he said of the Shockers, “10 minutes into the game, they were gassed.”

I went to ESPN.com to look up the play-by-play info for that game — possibly the Sooners most impressive win this season. The table below shows what I found (“WSU’s possession indicates how Wichita St.’s preceding possession ended):

Possession # Time of Poss (seconds) Result WSU’s possession
1 13 Young missed 3 make
2 16 Lattin turnover make
3 7 Manek missed 3 miss
4 9 Young 2 turnover
5 12 Manek 2 miss
6 18 Manek 3 make
7 8 Young 3 miss
8 15 Manek missed 3 make
9 5 Young missed 3 timeout
10 14 Young missed 2 make
11 13 McNeace made 2 turnover
12 5 Young layup & FT steal
13 15 McNeace FT’s turnover
14 10 Young 3 make
15 12 Freeman missed 3 make
16 15 Young 3 make
17 22 McGusty 3 miss
18 22 Young 2 make
19 8 Young missed 2 make
20 11 Lazenby TO make
21 6 McGusty 2 make
22 13 McGusty missed 3 make
23 7 Manek 2 block
24 17 Manek 3 turnover
25 13 McNeace missed 2 miss
26 13 McNeace missed 2 miss
27 15 Manek 3 make
28 11 Manek miss make
29 6 James missed 3 block
30 18 Manek 3 make
31 18 Shepherd missed 3 miss
32 7 Young miss block/td>
33 16 Young 3 foul
34 18 McNeace miss miss
35 5 James missed 2 make
36 8 Young FT’s miss
37 8 James missed 2 miss
38 6 James 2 miss
39 25 McGusty 3 miss
40 9 McGusty 2 make
41 19 Manek missed 3 miss
42 0 James 2 off. reb.
43 21 James missed 3 make

So, here are the relevant numbers. The Sooners had 43 offensive possessions in the 1st half alone and averaged 12.6 seconds per possession. The Sooners scored 54 points in the first half and had a 54-39 lead over the Shockers IN Wichita. OU had only 4 possessions where they took more than 20 seconds to get off a shot and one of those was their last possession of the half where they were aiming to take the last shot.

Notice that the Sooners were getting the ball down the court quickly off of Shocker misses and makes. Even when the Shockers made buckets, the Sooners got the ball out of the basket, pushed it up the court, and got quick buckets before the Shockers could set up their defense. Three times the Sooners were able to score within 10 seconds of a Wichita St. MADE basket.

It shouldn’t go unnoticed either that there are a number of Wichita St. turnovers and OU blocks that led to Sooner possessions. Clearly the team played very good defense in the 1st half. If OU had 43 possessions, so did Wichita St and they only had 39 points in the half so a team that averaged 1.22 points per possession during the season (5th in the nation) averaged less than 1 PPP in the 1st half against OU.

Clearly a lot went right during that first half against the Shockers. The Sooners were able to block a few shots that helped them get the ball down the court and they were also able to turn the Shockers over several times so they clearly played good defense. More importantly, the Sooners shot the ball well in that 1st half (57% overall and 10-23 from 3) but not out-of-this-world. The team scored 54 points and had a 15 point lead because they were efficient (only 2 turnovers) and got the ball down the court quickly. It’s probably also fair to say that one of the reasons the team did shoot the ball pretty well is because they were able to take a number of shots before the Shockers’ defense could set up. I think we can all agree that the Sooners just didn’t move the ball down the court this quickly very often during Big 12 conference play.

Maybe this is the key to the Sooners’ success in the tournament. They need to get back to doing what it is that they do best.

Thanks for reading.