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NCAA Basketball Tournament: Defense must improve for Sooners to snap postseason skid

OU’s offense played a big role in making the NCAA Tournament. An offseason goal will be to make the defense just as good for 2014-2015.
by Ryan Aber Published: March 21, 2014

SPOKANE, Wash. — Buddy Hield hunched over in his chair and looked at the floor.

Isaiah Cousins and Je’lon Hornbeak leaned back in their chairs, looking toward the ceiling, hoping to find answers.

Other players in the OU locker room buried their faces in their hands, trying to deal with the Sooners’ 80-75 overtime loss to North Dakota State on Thursday night in the first round of the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament.

The Sooners were picked to finish in the middle of the pack in the Big 12 this season, but their strong offense — keyed by solid 3-point shooting and a drive-and-kick offense that opened things up for the outside game — led Oklahoma to a second-place finish in the Big 12.

In the end, the Sooners’ defensive problems and the inability of the offense to get drives going toward the rim, left OU eliminated after its first game of the NCAA Tournament for the second consecutive year.

The path to improvement — and getting a postseason win for the first time in the Lon Kruger coaching era — is simple, Cousins said.

“We’ve got to learn how to be a better defensive team and really focus on defense and really focus on ending those possessions with key rebounds,” Cousins said. “That’s the biggest step in our progression.”

Cousins should know.

It was his improvement on that end of the floor that helped kick start the Sooners’ 5-1 regular-season finish that included wins over Oklahoma State, Kansas State and Texas.

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by Ryan Aber
OU Athletics Reporter
Ryan Aber has worked for The Oklahoman since 2006, covering high schools, the Oklahoma City RedHawks, the Oklahoma City Barons and OU football recruiting. An Oklahoma City native, Aber graduated from Northeastern State. Before joining The...
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