Given the talent disparity between the two teams, Oklahoma made Monday's match-up against Kentucky much more competitive than many observers -- and many Wildcats fans -- anticipated. With 1 minute, 16 seconds remaining in the game, Oklahoma cut its deficit to eight. In the end, Kentucky prevailed, 76-64, but the Sooners turned in an admirable performance.
This matters to Virginia followers because at 4:30 p.m. EST on Tuesday, the Cavaliers (2-2) will take on Oklahoma (3-1) in the consolation side of the Maui Invitational bracket. If you'd like an encouraging thought on the heels of Virginia's 43-point loss Monday night to Washington, here's a comment from an NBA scout in attendance at the tournament:
"Virginia probably is the more talented team, the more cohesive team," the scout said, comparing the Cavaliers to Oklahoma. Sooners Coach Jeff Capel "has a lot of guys playing by default. He's trying to do stuff with smoke and mirrors right now."
Keep in mind that the above comment was made after Oklahoma's loss but prior to Virginia's game Monday night. The scout left the Lahaina Civic Center long before the Cavaliers' defeat was final.
Anyway, the Sooners are led by senior guard Cade Davis (6-foot-5, 209 lbs.), who tallied 23 points and six rebounds against Kentucky. Two keys for the Cavaliers, the scout said, will be keeping Davis from getting easy shots and keeping Davis off the boards.
Davis "has a decent stroke," the scout said. "He can move on the floor, turn the corner and get to the rim."
Oklahoma's other consistent producer is sophomore forward Andrew Fitzgerald (6-foot-8, 231 lbs.), who posted 14 points and five rebounds Monday. No other Oklahoma player besides Davis and Fitzgerald attempted more than seven shots against Kentucky.
The Sooners' other starters include freshman guard Cameron Clark (6-foot-6, 189 lbs.), sophomore guard Steven Pledger (6-foot-4, 212 lbs.) and junior forward Nick Thompson (6-foot-9, 208 lbs.). None of those three players scored more than six points Monday. Oklahoma's reserve players tallied a combined 11 points against Kentucky.
"They're not a real skilled team, not a very talented team," the scout said. "They grind it out a bit, and they're not strong inside. They don't have a post player as talented as Mike Scott."
Don't expect Oklahoma to push the pace like Washington did. Kentucky Coach John Calipari lauded the Sooners' ability to "muck up" Monday's game. The Sooners alternated between a 2-3 zone, a 1-2-2 zone and man-to-man defense against the Wildcats in an attempt to slow down the tempo. And to a certain extent, they were successful in doing so.
It will be interesting to see whether Oklahoma's strategy changes after seeing how poorly Virginia performed against Washington's pressure defense Monday night.
| November 23, 2010; 7:55 AM ET
Categories: Men's Basketball
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