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OU Basketball: More Physical Than Their Football Team

It's Texas / OU Weekend and ESPN's College Gameday will be there. No, it is not October, but there is a big Horns vs. Sooners matchup on Saturday night. #5 Texas (17-2, 5-0) will take on #22 Oklahoma (12-4, 3-2) on ESPN2 8 PM CST in front of Rece Davis, Jay Bilas, Dickie V, and 11,000 screaming Sooner fans at the Lloyd Noble Center. Horns' fans don't worry. The Noble Center "has a newly renovated lighted parking lot with over 4,000 parking spaces and 180 newly design RV parking spaces." So, feel free to travel to Norman in style. They now have lights and parking spaces.

The Sooners enter the game two full games behind the Horns in the race for the Big 12 title. This is a must win if OU is to have any shot at the conference crown. The Sooners have won three straight after surprisingly dropping their first two conference contests at Nebraska and to Missouri at home. Kelvin Samson's club started the season ranked in the top 10. Their light non conference schedule produced no quality wins and two losses to Villanova and West Virginia (Texas has beaten both). The Sooners have struggled closing the deal against solid teams. They have held leads of seven or more in all four of their losses.

OU has also struggled on offense. They are currently averaging a paltry 56 points per game. Didn't our football team average about the same? If you are reading this and have confused OU's version of basketball with football, you are not alone. The Sooners have excelled in recent years by simply being more physical than their opponents. OU's games have that "first team to 50 wins" feeling most of the time. I don't expect Saturday's clash to be any different.

The strength of OU lies in their frontcourt. Power forward Taj Gray (6'9" 238) is definitely OU's best player. Gray was on all the preseason Big 12 teams and was picked by some as preseason Player of the Year. Center Kevin Bookout (6'8" 270), who has now been a Sooner for just short of a decade, is the second half of a strong Sooner frontline. He is averaging 12 points, seven rebounds, and two takedowns per game. Double figure scoring and floor leadership has also come this year from Terrell Everett. Everett is averaging 11 points, four rebounds, and six assists. He also hit a huge three pointer to beat A&M last week.

Much like Texas, OU wins with defense and rebounding. OU has held their last three Big 12 opponents to an average of 48 points per game and are giving up just 58 ppg for the season. But their field goal percentage defense has not been as good. Opponents are shooting over 40% from the floor and 38% from behind the arc. Texas, meanwhile, is holding opponents to 35% from the floor and 30% from behind the arc. OU's rebounding has been very strong though. They are second in the nation in rebound margin. Texas is third. Whoever wins the battle of the boards will probably win this one.

Texas does not play well in Norman. They hold a 20-7 edge in games played there. The Horns were swept in two contests last season but had won the previous five meetings including a 68-63 victory in 2004 in Norman.  This is Texas' toughest test left on their schedule. If the Horns get past this one, a perfect Big 12 record will be worth talking about.

Texas should and will win this game. The Horns are riding a current nine game winning streak and are as balanced as any team in the country. Look for our 2-3 zone to control Gray and Bookout and frustrate Sooner shots from the outside. Our offense is much more difficult to predict. Will Daniel Gibson stay hot? Will PJ Tucker get back to scoring at will? Will Lamarcus Aldridge take the ball strong to the basket or rely on the fade away against stronger OU defenders? Will Brad Buckman continue hitting sometimes poorly conceived jumpers? Will all of the above occur? Texas could get twenty from any one of our five starters.

Both teams are solid on defense and rebounding but Texas is better on the offensive end. Texas survives the physical battle and wins an UGLY one, 58-53.