The surprise isn’t that Oklahoma, fantastic as it has been all year, had an off day shooting on Saturday, or even that it came against one of the bottom teams in the Big 12 in Kansas State (a team that is still no slouch-witness a win over a solid Mississippi team in the Big 12/SEC Challenge just last weekend). The real surprise is that it has taken so long for the Sooners to have a loss due to cold shooting outside.
As is well known, Oklahoma is the best three-point shooting team in the country, leading far and away in three-point percentage (46.2%) and rating third in triples per game (11.3). The Sooners hit just 6 of 24 from deep on Saturday, and Buddy Hield in particular was quiet until late in the 80-69 loss.
Remarkably, in its previous two losses the Sooners shot 16 of 33 in that famous triple-overtime game against Kansas and a blistering 17 of 32 in the loss at Iowa State. It’s only other performance recently that was close to as poor as Saturday’s was a 7-for-24 showing Jan. 16 against West Virginia, but OU pulled that one out at the buzzer.
Oklahoma is certainly not incapable inside with Ryan Spangler, but the three-ball has clearly become a huge part of its offense. Over-relying on the triple, though, is always a dangerous proposition, especially in tournament time, when one cold-shooting game can undo the highest of hopes.
The Sooners were one of four ranked teams to lose to unranked teams on Saturday. Among the others: North Carolina lost at Notre Dame 80-76, a loss that may cause alarm for some but really is a sign that 1) no one is close to unbeatable this year and 2) the Fighting Irish deserve more credit this year than they’ve received. That’s wins now over Duke, UNC and Iowa, plus a blowout of a good Stony Brook team.
Wichita State saw its undefeated Missouri Valley Conference run come to an end as Illinois State rallied from 16 down to stun the Shockers 58-53. This one had the look of Groundhog Day, as the Redbirds also were the last MVC team to defeat WSU, doing so in the Arch Madness semifinals last year. Illinois State used a zone in the second half of that game that the Shockers had no answer for, and that was the case again last night. This wasn’t as surprising as many may think: ISU has the size, length and athleticism to bother Wichita State, or any other team-witness narrow losses to Maryland, Kentucky and San Diego State.
The most surprising loss was Penn State knocking off Indiana 68-63. Turnovers were an issue for IU in an overall underwhelming and uncharacteristically poor offensive performance. Indiana committed 15 miscues and shot just 36.2%, making only 17 field goals total. Good win for the Nittany Lions, while chalk this one up for the Hoosiers to the February blahs, an ugly game on the road that happens sometimes this time of year.
- Hoopville’s Phil Kasiecki has his Saturday notes here.
- Top performances from Saturday: Old Dominion’s Trey Freeman scored a career-high 38, and the Monarchs needed all of them in a 74-69 win over UNC Charlotte. Jordan Howard of Central Arkansas scored 36 in the Bears’ 112-77 win over New Orleans, Kentucky’s Jamal Murray scored 35 in the Wildcats’ surprisingly easy 80-61 win over Florida, and Loyola Marymount’s Adam Jocko scored 35 points, but Portland completed a sweep of its Los Angeles trip in WCC play by beating the Lions 92-78. Stephen F. Austin’s Thomas Walkup scored a career-best 35 and added 12 rebounds in the Lumberjacks’ close 72-66 win over Houston Baptist. Also, a special mention to LSU’s Antonio Blakeney, who tallied 31 in the Tigers’ 88-77 win over Mississippi State. If Blakeney-a McDonald’s All-American who has struggled as a freshman-starts to pick up his play down the stretch, LSU is a whole different team. He is the true X factor for the Tigers.
- Auburn guard Kareem Canty has been suspended indefinitely and missed the Tigers’ 65-55 loss at Georgia on Saturday. Canty leads the team with 18.6 points and 5.3 assists per contest, but according to coach Bruce Pearl “his effort and attitude have been extremely inconsistent, which led to actions and behavior that are unacceptable. He will step away from the team for a while and may return later in the season. He is suspended indefinitely.”
Today’s Menu: A light schedule on this near-national holiday, but not a barren one.
- Ranked teams on the road: Iowa is at Illinois (1 p.m. EST, BTN), Miami (Fla.) had best be alert at Georgia Tech (1 p.m., ESPNU) and SMU goes to grind-it-out South Florida (2 p.m., CBSSN).
- One ranked team is at home as Oregon hosts Utah (4 p.m., ESPN2).
- Olean, N.Y. and the Reilly Center gets a rare national television showcase as St. Bonaventure hosts Saint Louis (2 p.m., NBCSN).
- James Madison hosts Hofstra and can force a three-way tie for third in the CAA with a win.
Happy Super Bowl Sunday.