The Sooners played hard but not always well in an 80-75 overtime loss to North Dakota State, and the grades reflect that:
Defense: D. North Dakota State got the shots it wanted. The Bison, who lead the nation in field-goal percentage, shot 52.9 percent for the game, and that’s after cooling off early in the second half. North Dakota State made 27 baskets; 23 were 3-pointers or shots within three feet of the basket. That’s awfully efficient offense. The Bison only took seven shots the whole game that were two-pointers outside the paint.
Isaiah Cousins: A. The oft-overlooked sophomore guard was OU’s best player. He had 17 points, eight rebounds, three steals and great defense on Bison star Taylor Braun. Cousins kept OU in the game in the first half and helped key the second-half comeback.
Shot selection: C. The Sooners didn’t take a ton of bad shots. But they did take a lot of quick shots. And while that’s been OU’s tendency all season, it was a little quicker than Lon Kruger would have preferred. The guards penetrated the Bison defense but didn’t always make wise decisions in the lane. The Sooners made just 13 of 42 2-point shots.
Game scheduling: F. Any doubt that the NCAA Tournament is a made-for-TV event? The day games in Spokane were scheduled for 1 p.m. and 3:30. Spokane time. And the OU-NDSU game was set for 4:27 p.m. That left no wiggle room. The first session ran long, and OU’s start was rescheduled for 4:55. But that still left only about 35 minutes for the arena to be cleared and fans readmitted. When the Sooners came onto the court with 3:29 left before tipoff, there weren’t 200 fans in the stands. During the starting lineup introductions, there weren’t 1,000. A few minutes into the game, the stands were full, more than 12,000.
Coaching: B. Lon Kruger pushed most of his buttons correctly. Ahead three with 26 seconds left in regulation, Kruger told his team not to foul unless the clock got down to seven seconds. With 11 seconds, Lawrence Alexander nailed a tying 3-pointer. Maybe the only knock against Kruger’s calls was sitting Ryan Spangler a little long with three fouls. Spangler sat out from 14:31 of the second half to 8:05; during those 61/2 minutes, the Bison’s lead held steady, from 46-40 to 54-50, but the Sooners weren’t likely to make a run without Spangler’s inside presence.
Fast break game: C. The Sooners got little edge in transition, even though North Dakota State prefers to play at a deliberate pace. The Bison committed 15 turnovers to OU’s 10 but outscored the Sooners 18-13 in points off turnovers. That’s what happens when you play a team with an efficient offense and don’t take advantage of athletic superiority.