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January 26, 2014

Bedlam hoops set for Big Monday stage

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It took one of Oklahoma's most complete performances of the season a year ago to knock off Oklahoma State at Lloyd Noble. The Sooners shot the ball well, received needed scoring and production from not only former Sooners Romero Osby and Amath M'Baye but sophomore guard Buddy Hield.

Hield scored 15 points, dropped five dimes and led the charge in shutting down the man many think is the top point guard in the country: OSU's Marcus Smart.

The Sooners stymied Smart for 10 points, two boards and three assists in the game. Those totals were all below his career average.

SCOOPHD: BEDLAM SET FOR BIG MONDAY SHOWDOWN

video by Eddie Radosevich

The job doesn't get any easier this season. Smart averages 17.1 points, 5.7 boards and 4.4 assists per game, and OU coach Lon Kruger will have his squad on high alert when it plays the Pokes at 8 tonight at Lloyd Noble.

"He's probably as versatile as anyone in the country in terms of all the different things he does to impact the game," Kruger said.

Last year, senior Cameron Clark played just 15 minutes. He scored four points. He grabbed four rebounds. That wasn't his game to take a leading role in. This one is.

How Kruger uses Clark and how OSU coach Travis Ford uses Le'Bryan Nash offensively could foreshadow the outcome of this game. Nash is listed as a forward but his play doesn't suggest that of a post player to Clark.

"A big guard, that's what he is," said Clark of Nash.

Nash averages 14.1 points, 6.1 boards a game.

Clark and Hield have been the catalyst to the Sooners' offensive outbursts this season, and it behooves the duo to continue shooting and scoring like they have for most of the year.

"We gotta fight like crazy to start with, and then get help from people around (Smart)," Kruger said. "But against a good team like this you can't cheat too much because other guys can hurt you also."

The Sooners were bigger then, stronger in the paint and better on defense. But what they lack in size and girth this season they've made up for in speed. OU has shown it can run with any team in the conference and can win games still in doubt with the final minutes ticking away.

Ordinarily, OU's speed and transition game would give it an edge against Big 12 foes. But Oklahoma State matches up with the Sooners well.

Since losing 6-foot-8 forward Michael Cobbins for the season with a ruptured left Achilles tendon, OSU has gone to a more guard-oriented lineup that looks similar to the one OU has used all season. The similarities between the two are striking.

Each team sits on 16 wins. Each team boasts one of the top five scorers in the conference. Each team has one of the top three free throw shooters in the conference.

The Cowboys are flourishing with their own brand of get buckets offense. OSU averages better than 84 points per game and shoots better than 48 percent per game from the floor.

The Pokes have proven susceptible on the road, dropping games at Kansas and Kansas State in conference play. But Lloyd Noble has been no fortress. Both KU and Louisiana Tech have left Norman with wins.

On a night where the Lloyd Noble will look for fans to white-out the game, Hield said the game will come down to who wants it more.

"All those guys are athletic," he said. "We're athletic. It always comes down to who wants to win more -- who wants the loose balls, rebounds and little plays to win the basketball game."



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