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OU basketball: Sooners are improved since first meeting with Missouri

OU point guard Sam Grooms: “They didn't get our best game. We feel good about playing them again...this time, we get them on our floor. It's been a month. We're a lot better.”
BY MIKE BALDWIN Published: February 5, 2012

The Sooners need to play really well Monday night against Missouri, a senior-laden team that poses matchup problems. OU's most daunting challenge is to not get beaten off the dribble for easy points.

Missouri owned a 36-10 in-the-paint edge a month ago, largely due to a dozen layups and two dunks. The Tigers were simply too quick. The Sooners played on their heels.

“We got tentative because of their speed,” Henson said. “Hopefully, we're playing a lot better now. We think we are.”

Guard the Tigers too closely and Marcus Denmon, Kim English and the Pressey brothers, Phil and Matt, will blow around you for a layup. Lay back, and they'll drain 3-pointers.

“We're more capable than most teams (to defend them) because we have four mobile guys with a four man (Romero Osby) who can guard on the perimeter,” Kruger said. “But they're a tough matchup. They're not just guards. They're quick guards that are good off the dribble and shoot really well.”

Missouri ranks fourth nationally in field goal percentage (49.9). The Tigers, though, are vulnerable against teams that can dominate the boards.

“That's the plan,” said Kruger. “We haven't done it as consistently in conference play as we did early, but the level of play is lot better. Rebounding is a big key. To beat a top-five team, something has to stand out.”

Playing physical might help offset the Tigers' quickness edge.

“They're tough to guard, and they can't shoot 3's and have a good five man (Theo Ratliffe) in the post,” Osby said. “You have to be physical with them and alert, ready to guard them out top, knowing they may try to take you off the dribble. It's both mental and physical toughness.”

Osby is an example where the Sooners are improved. He's expanded his game, attacking off the dribble, draining 15-footers and scoring in the post.

A complement to Andrew Fitzgerald (averaging 14.9 points in conference play), Osby has averaged 16.3 points the past month, a span of eight games.

“They didn't get our best game in Columbia,” Osby said. “We weren't ready to take that step like we should have. We feel much better playing them this time. It's on our home floor. We've gotten a lot better.”