OU basketball notebook: Sooners relish 'underdog' role

ESPN personalities predict that 12th-seeded North Dakota State will beat No. 5-seeded Oklahoma
by Ryan Aber Published: March 17, 2014


photo -  Oklahoma Sooner's Jordan Woodard (10), D.J. Bennett (31), Isaiah Cousins (11) and Buddy Hield (24) react to play as the University of Oklahoma Sooners (OU) men defeat the Iowa State Cyclones (ISU) 87-82 in NCAA, college basketball at The Lloyd Noble Center on Saturday, Jan. 11, 2014  in Norman, Okla. Photo by Steve Sisney, The Oklahoman
Oklahoma Sooner's Jordan Woodard (10), D.J. Bennett (31), Isaiah Cousins (11) and Buddy Hield (24) react to play as the University of Oklahoma Sooners (OU) men defeat the Iowa State Cyclones (ISU) 87-82 in NCAA, college basketball at The Lloyd Noble Center on Saturday, Jan. 11, 2014 in Norman, Okla. Photo by Steve Sisney, The Oklahoman

As the No. 5 seed playing a No. 12, Oklahoma is the favorite to advance past North Dakota State in Thursday’s second round of the NCAA Basketball Tournament.

But the Sooners were well aware when the Bison were the consensus pick to upset OU when ESPN personalities made their predictions Sunday evening.

“They’re not favoring us,” sophomore guard Buddy Hield said. “We just gotta go out there and fight. We can’t worry about what they say, because they’re not playing. Go out there and do our job and prove them wrong.”

Maybe that’s the mentality that the Sooners need.

OU coach Lon Kruger said his team performed better when playing the spoiler.

“No question, when you look at our play we haven’t handled the favorites role as well as we have the underdogs role,” Kruger said. “We need to prepare as if we’re the underdog I guess. That’s always safer.

“Our guys understand how good North Dakota State is.”

NEAL TAKES ON ROLE OF BRAUN

Oklahoma senior forward Tyler Neal is playing the role of North Dakota State’s Taylor Braun in practice this week.

“They’re similar,” Kruger said. “Tyler’s maybe a similar size, if not a little bigger and thicker.”

Braun is the Bison’s leading scorer, averaging 18.2 points per game.

Neal also figures to spend some time guarding Braun.

“When you’re on that scout time, you kind of get a first-hand of seeing their plays drawn up on the board as opposed to just seeing it on film,” Neal said. “You kind of get to experience it and be in it. That’s definitely helpful, too.”

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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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