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February 4, 2014
Sooners facing swing game in Morgantown
Through one half of their Big 12 schedule, No. 21 Oklahoma has amassed a record that puts it three games above .500. That's good enough for third best in one of the most competitive conferences in the country and within striking distance of competing for the regular season league title.
Already the Sooners have achieved more than most expected. However, there's plenty of room for improvement according to senior guard Cameron Clark, especially following a bad weekend at Iowa State.
"We still have a lot of room to go," he said. "Defensively, I still think we can improve more. Offensively, we just need to swing the ball more."
Clark took just seven of Oklahoma's 69 shots against ISU and scored just seven points in the Sooners' 81-75 loss to the Cyclones. Despite a 32-point outing against Kansas last month, Clark's scoring has suffered in Big 12 play.
He's averages16.1 points a game for the season but only 12.7 against Big 12 opponents. He knows he hasn't been scoring particularly high since 2014 began, so he's looking to create more opportunities for the other four guys on the floor.
His assist rate has actually marginally risen in league competition compared to the regular season. He's averaged just 1.2 dimes a game this year compared to 1.3 against Big 12 foes.
"I think I can just do a great job just penetrating because they're going to be focusing on me more," he said. "So I can just do a better job getting my teammates more open looks. It's not really about me scoring. It's just doing the little things."
When the Sooners (17-5, 6-3) battle West Virginia at 6 tonight, it stands to reason Clark will have to play a crucial role both scoring and creating opportunities for other Sooners to score if they're to win at WVU Coliseum.
Clark has taken 20 percent of OU's shots this season and is the second best 3-point shooter on the roster.
Only sophomore guard Buddy Hield has taken a higher percentage of the team's shots than Clark, and the duo combine for an average of 33 points a game. That's nearly 40 percent of OU's offensive production.
Still, Harris and Staten are a just a couple reasons the Mountaineers (13-9, 5-4) have ambled toward the middle of the Big 12 standings and have won their last two in a row.
West Virginia is the best in the league and ninth-best in the country when it comes to taking care of the ball. WVU turns the ball over fewer than 10 times a game.
The Mountaineers are tied for first in the Big 12 in both turnover margin and second in assist-to-turnover ratio. WVU is also dangerous from 3-point land.
West Virginia hits its treys at a 38.5 percent clip, and, also like ISU, relies heavily on its consistency from 3-point range to score a large portion of its points. 29.9 percent of the Mountaineers points this season have been scored beyond the arc and most of those come from Harris.
Harris ranks third in the league in 3-point shooting at 42.3 percent a game, just behind Oklahoma State's Phil Forte and Baylor's Brady Heslip. But Harris is only the second-best scorer on WVU coach Bob Huggins squad.
After averaging just 7.6 points in his first year in Morgantown, Staten has erupted on the offensive end of the court. He ranks second in the Big 12 in scoring with 18 points per game.
He's fresh off a 35-point outing against Kansas State last Saturday and is also the league's best at dropping dimes. He averages 6.0 a game.
Unlike Harris though, who takes nearly 50 percent of his shots from behind the 3-point line, Staten makes a living getting to the rim.
48.8 percent of Staten's shots are taken at the rim, and he finishes those shots 62.7 percent of the time. Oklahoma doesn't boast a single guard who takes more than 50 percent of his shots around the rim.
Oklahoma coach Lon Kruger knows the defensive challenge that awaits his Sooners in Staten, a point guard who is always looking for ways to score.
"He's a guy that's on the attack all the time," Kruger said. "He's getting into the paint. He's getting to the free throw line. He's shooting the ball for a great percentage. Just an outstanding year. Just the fact that he keeps the pressure on all the time."