The Sooners will have be tougher than John Wayne's toilet paper when they play at 6 p.m. tonight against Arkansas. The Razorbacks are in the midst of a three-game skid, but their losses have come against quality opponents, including Arizona State, Wisconsin and No. 4 Syracuse.
Defense has won games for Oklahoma this season, and the Sooners will have to play plenty of outstanding defense at Bud Walton Arena.
Oklahoma (6-1) face a prolific scorer in sophomore guard BJ Young who attacks the basket with confidence and flair. He averages 21.4 points per game for the Razorbacks (3-3) and scored a season-high 29 points against Arizona State.
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"He's a guy that just gets to the paint, gets to the rim anytime he wants to," said Oklahoma men's basketball coach Lon Kruger.
Junior forward Marshawn Powell is the only other Razorback averaging double figures in scoring and figures to be a threat in the front court. He's come back from a season-ending knee injury last year to average 13.3 points per game.
Senior forward Romero Osby played against Powell as a sophomore at Mississippi State and expects a tough battle with Powell.
"He's real versatile," Osby said. "He can play inside and outside. You match-up with a guy like that, you've just got to make him settle for jumpers and stuff like that."
Osby will hope to force Powell to commit several turnovers. Oklahoma has forced 32 turnovers, recorded 15 steals and committed just 28 fouls in its past two games -- just one more foul than it did in 40 minutes against West Virginia.
Northwestern State (La.) coach Mike McConathy attested to the Sooners ferocious man-to-man defensive style last Friday night. The Sooners were in the Demons' personal bubble, rummaging through their pockets and looking for lunch money.
"I've been coaching for 30-something years, so I know some coaches and they say they're as tough and they play as hard of defense as anybody they've seen in a long time -- whether it's officials saying that or whether it's coaches saying that," McConathy said.
On offensive end of the floor, the Sooners needed a last minute exorcism to cast out the Demons, and a fortunate bounce off the heel of the rim to narrowly defeat Oral Roberts at the Mabee Center.
Five of the Sooners' six wins have been decided by single digits, and their leading scorer, Osby, averages just 11.1 points per game. Senior 2-guard Steven Pledger -- the Big 12's leading returning scorer a year ago with 16.2 points per game -- is the only other Sooner averages just 9.9 points per game.
OU is shooting just 40.3 percent from the floor, 68.4 percent from the charity stripe and 32.1 percent from 3-point range.
Kruger knows his team needs to shoot the ball better against the Razorbacks, who will try to force bad shot attempts and quick possessions.
"We're getting shots up, but we're not shooting for a very good percentage," Kruger said. "So we've got to finish better opportunities."
Arkansas coach Mike Anderson coached alongside Nolan Richardson and employs Richardson's 40 minutes of hell brand of basketball. With it, the Razorbacks average 82.3 points per game this season but that doesn't concern senior point guard Sam Grooms.
"Most teams that like to score a lot of buckets don't like to play a lot of defense," Grooms said. "They want to get as many possessions as they can on offense. So if we can attack them and make them guard us and then just slow them down, we'll be fine."
This is the kind of game Oklahoma would like to win -- and win with style. A victory against Arkansas in Fayetteville might look good on OU's résumé should it be a bubble team in March.
"We can get some people talking about us if we win this game there," Grooms said. "It's a hostile environment. It's a TV game -- it means a lot across the board."