Sam Grooms will look to steady the pace Saturday against an up-temp Arkansas team
Just two days removed from a win against a talented Oral Roberts squad, the Oklahoma Sooners (6-1) are set to face off against the Arkansas Razorbacks (5-2) Saturday at the Lloyd Noble, in what could be their toughest test yet. The following is a preview of the game, including gameday facts, a quick report of the Razorbacks, keys to the game and a score prediction.
- The Sooners are 11-14 against the Razorbacks all-time.
- Entering his first season as the Razorback head coach, Mike Anderson is an all to familiar foe for the Sooners, having coached at Missourithe last five seasons.
- Anderson is 3-2 all-time against the Sooners.
- The two teams met last year in Fayetteville, where Arkansas prevailed 84-74.
- The Razorbacks have yet to win a game (0-1) on the road this season.
- The two team’s potent offenses combine for nearly 160 points per game.
- Overview: At 5-2 the Razorbacks have only suffered losses to the defending champion Connecticut Huskies, and less-respectable Houston team at home. Rebounding is also a weakness of the Razorbacks, who, similar to the Sooners, start two 6’8” forwards at the 4 and 5 position. They are very guard-heavy and have proven the three can be a weapon for them, shooting 36% on the season. They run the infamous “40 minutes of hell” system, implemented by Anderson, which, as implied, puts the heat on the opposing team with its up-tempo pace. However, one downfall for them could end up being lack of experience; four of the Razorbacks top five scorers are underclassmen. One Razorback who will be missed Saturday is Marshawn Powell, who will miss the remainder of the season due to a knee injury. Powell was averaging nearly 20 points and six rebounds a contest prior to the injury.
- Jr. PG Julysses Nobles 6’1” 174 lb. – One of just two upperclassmen starters, experience aids Nobles greatly in his role of floor general. Despite being a distributor, averaging just over 3 assists per contest, he is also one of the top three scorers on the team, netting 10.4 PPG. He scores in a variety of ways, typically from three, but he has been known to attack the basket and get to the line. He is known for his quick hands, which have earned him a reputation as one of the better perimeter defenders on the team, swiping 1.6 steals an outing.
- Soph. Guard Mardracus Wade 6’2” 175 lb.- Wade is known for his tenacious defensive game, and fits well into Anderson’s system, but he has also proven his worth on the offensive end. He is 2nd in scoring on the year with 10.9 points per contest. He can be deadly from three, shooting 48% (14-29) on the season, and an efficient free throw shooter when he finds ways to get to the stripe.
- Soph. Guard Rickey Scott 6’3” 202 lb. – Unlike the others, Scott does not possess much of a stroke from three, but he has other means of scoring. He is most successful when attacking the basket and earning charity points at the free throw line. It should also be noted, that he shares the ball well, dropping three dimes a contest on average.
- Sr. Forward Michael Sanchez 6’8” 236 lb. – Sanchez definitely isn’t the star, but he puts in solid, veteran minutes for the Razorbacks. He currently averages a steady five points and nearly four rebounds a contest.
- Fr. Forward Devonta Abron 6’8” 255 lb. – Abron has stepped up big, inheriting the starting role in the absence of Powell. Only a freshman, he still has some growing to do, but nevertheless, he has been a valuable asset of the Razorbacks and does seem to be improving. He posted a career high 16 rebounds against defending champs, Connecticut last Saturday, and a career high 13 points the game before. If the hot streak continues, it could be another career day for the frosh.
- 6th man: Fr. Guard B.J. Young- Oddly enough, Young is the leading scorer as well as the sixth man for this Razorbacks squad. The most highly regarded of their freshmen, he is averaging a little over 15 points for Arkansas, and poured in a career high 28 points against Connecticut. He’s lethal from beyond the arc (50%), and can also provide some rebounding and distributing. Despite his inexperience, one could argue he is the best player on the Razorback team.
- Other Key Bench Players- A couple of other names you may be hearing a lot Saturday are Rashad Madden and Hunter Mickelson. Both freshmen look to provide quality minutes as reserves. Madden con produce points, scoring in double figures three times off the bench this season, and Mickelson will look to add height and rebounding to the undersized squad.
Keys to a Sooner Victory:
- Rebounding: This is always going to be the top priority for the Sooners, who play a very small lineup. It will be particularly important when facing an opponent with a similar sized lineup, such as Arkansas. The Sooners are going to need to crash the boards hard to give themselves a chance in this game.
- Defend the Perimeter: As previously mentioned, Arkansas can be a threat from three. The Sooners must limit their looks form beyond the arc, and not allow them to get off to a hot start. If they do, it could be dangerous for the Sooners.
- Hit the Three: If you can’t beat them, join them right? If for some reason the Sooners are unable to contain the Razorbacks from three, they can still stay in the game if they are able to knock down a few treys of their own.
- Bench Play: This is the first big test the Sooners have had since the recent loss of 6th man Calvin Newell. They will need guys like CJ Washington, Tyler Neal and Carl Blair to step up and contribute solid minutes, much like they did Thursday against Oral Roberts.
- Steady Ball Control: The Sooners are likely in for a rough game against Anderson’s high-speed method of play. Control and limited turnovers will be hard to come by, but crucial to a victory in this game.
- Sam Grooms: It’s going to be on him as the point guard for the Sooners to manage the game and not let Arkansas dictate the pace. He’s going to need to do a good job at getting to ball where it needs to be and setting things up for the Sooner offense. This is why he is the Sooner Player to Watch.
Matchup to Watch: Devonta Abron vs. Romero Osby- Battle of the bigs in the low post. Both are the leading rebounders for their teams and as rebounding is stressed for both teams, the matchup should be an interesting one to follow. They should also clash on the opposite ends of the floor, both have the ability to score and could possibly come up big for their teams, Osby in particular would be of value in slowing the fast-paced Razorbacks, if he could accumulate some points down low.
Final Score Prediction: Oklahoma wins 77-67
Want more Sooner hoops updates? Follow me on Twitter @ChandlerVessels
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