NCAA Basketball Tournament: Sooners' overhauled offense has North Dakota State coach's attention

North Dakota State basketball coach Saul Phillips is generally a high-energy guy. But his tone turns down a bit when he was asked about Oklahoma’s offense.
by Ryan Aber Published: March 19, 2014
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SPOKANE, Wash. — North Dakota State basketball coach Saul Phillips is generally a high-energy guy.

But his tone turns down a bit when he was asked about Oklahoma’s offense.

“It’s difficult to figure out where your help’s going to come from sometimes,” Phillips said. “They are really good at attacking you off the dribble and freeing up guys flat-footed on the perimeter. As good as anybody we’ve faced, certainly.”

That wasn’t as high praise as Texas coach Rick Barnes heaped on the Sooners and coach Lon Kruger a few weeks back.

“I think they’ve done as good a job as anybody of taking advantage of the rules changes,” Barnes said, in between accolades to Sooners coach Lon Kruger. “They get going downhill with it. Their dribble penetration is key for them.”

The Sooners face Phillips’ Bison at 6:27 p.m. Thursday at Veterans Memorial Arena.

Kruger and his staff took advantage of the practices before Oklahoma’s preseason trip to Europe. They overhauled the Sooners’ offensive game, partly based on the improvement made by Buddy Hield, Cam Clark and Isaiah Cousins from the perimeter and partly based on the rule changes that allows offensive players greater freedom of movement and limiting charge calls.

“We tried to consider what was coming back in October and tried to get offensively on the attack and put pressure on the defense,” Kruger said. “I think our guys have done a pretty good job of that.”

There’s little doubt about that. Hield is shooting nearly 40 percent from behind the 3-point line after shooting below .240 from behind the arc last season. Cousins went from 27.9 percent from the field to better than 44 percent this year. Clark’s shooting percentage is down a bit over last year, but he didn’t get near as many offensive touches then. And he added a mid-range game this season that he didn’t have at all previously.


by Ryan Aber
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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