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December 8, 2013

HOOPS: OU takes on George Mason

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Following Oklahoma's win against Texas A&M-Corpus Christi, sophomore Buddy Hield, a Bahamas native, was asked how he felt about playing in the ice and snow that blanketed Norman.

"It's not my style," Hield said.

He might not like the weather in Washington, D.C., when the Sooners play George Mason at noon Sunday.

After winning their first four games, the Patriots have won just one of their last three. They'll certainly want a win against the Sooners at the Verizon Center.

OU coach Lon Kruger was already looking forward to the matchup during his postgame press conference after the Sooners' win against TAMU-CC.

"We'll have a good challenge in George Mason," Kruger said. "Coach [Paul] Hewitt always does a good job and they will be well prepared."

Hewitt's squad is led by senior guard and leading scorer Sherrod Wright. Wright matches senior Cameron Clark for points scored per game with 17.5.

Hield averages 17 points per game, but it's sophomore guard Isaiah Cousins who has infused the offense most this year.

After averaging just 2.7 points per game last season, he's averaging nearly 12 (11.6) this season. He's been instrumental in helping OU start its games fast and push the pace.

The Sooners have reached the 40-point threshold in almost every half of basketball they've played, not doing so just twice all season. That's 14 of 16 halves with 40 points or more. In 2012-13, that happened only 17 times.

George Mason boasts three players who average double-digits scoring, but the team only puts up an average of 66.4 points per game. Oklahoma ranks 14th in the nation in points scored per game with just over 87.

That's because OU has shown itself to be a team full of players capable of scoring from inside and out. Four of those players have already scored at least 10 points more times this season than all of last season because OU has been able to create offense out of its defense.

"We can get as many turnovers as we need and that gives us opportunities to score the basketball," Hield said.

Junior forward D.J. Bennett has had a lot to do with that, too. Against TAMU-CC, he came off the bench to score nine points and account for five blocks.

He's slowly becoming a larger part of the Sooners' defensive plans, and his standing in the paint affects the game.

"Just having a presence and knowing you have help back there. Shot blocking, we are going to get blocked shots," Hield said. "We are going to run out and make plays for our teammates. It's good for a defensive team."

Kruger agreed, and said the kind of play he saw out of Bennett during the game against the Islanders will be important to the Sooners' success come January when conference play begins.

"I think that's what we're going to see out of him going forward," Kruger said. "That's great. We need that. We know he can do it and it was good to see it today."

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