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Defensive-minded Oklahoma opens Big 12 schedule vs. Kansas St.

Porter Moser improved to 2-0 as OU men's basketball coach on Friday.Ou Vs Northwestern State
Porter Moser improved to 2-0 as OU men’s basketball coach on Friday.Ou Vs Northwestern State

Coach Porter Moser has emphasized defense from the beginning of his time at Oklahoma.

As the Sooners head into Saturday’s Big 12 opener against Kansas State in Norman, Okla., Moser is pleased with the progress his team has made during their 10-2 start.

“They’re starting to believe it’s the key to winning,” Moser said. “And they’ve really been intentional trying to learn. I love that.

“They’re getting better at five guys playing possession by possession. So our arrow’s going up. It’s something we have to do to win, and our guys are starting to believe that. But there’s a huge room for improvement with our defense.”

The Sooners enter conference play in the top 25 nationally in both scoring defense and 3-point defense, holding opponents to 59.3 points per game and to 27.5 percent shooting from beyond the arc.

“Their defensive system makes it hard to score and they’ve been scoring the ball and shooting the ball well so you’re going to have to stop them also,” Kansas State coach Bruce Weber said.

The Wildcats (8-3) have been strong defensively as well, holding opponents to just 59.5 points per game and have been even better at defending 3-pointers, with opponents shooting just 24.6 percent, the third-lowest rate in Division I.

The Sooners have mostly been healthy this season, starting the same five in all 12 games so far.

The Wildcats have used five different starting lineups so far, and have used the same starters in three consecutive games just once.

One of the players that has yet to start is Davion Bradford, the 7-foot forward who started 25 games as a freshman last season. Bradford battled pneumonia before the season and has eased back into action.

Though Weber said Kaosi Ezeagu would remain the starter for now, Bradford is getting closer to being 100 percent.

“I like what Davion’s done the last 10 days, two weeks before we went home for a break,” Weber said. “He’s definitely got his conditioning better. He’s getting his legs. He’s feeling more confident about himself, being more assertive.”

Both teams come into the game on three-game winning streaks, but neither has played in more than a week. For the Sooners, that was their schedule all along.

The Wildcats had a Wednesday game against North Florida canceled due to their opponents’ COVID-19 protocols.

–Field Level Media