GAME NOTES: Former Big 12 Conference rivals will square off in Houston on Saturday night, as the Oklahoma Sooners and the Texas A&M Aggies do battle at the Toyota Center.
Oklahoma has been nearly flawless this season, as its only setback in 11 matchups came in the championship game of the Coaches vs. Cancer Classic on Nov. 23 versus nationally-ranked Michigan State, 87-76. Since that defeat, the Sooners have reeled off six straight victories, most recently edging out Texas-Arlington at home on Tuesday night, 91-89.
Texas A&M is also off to a stellar start, as it sits with an 8-2 record following back-to-back home wins over Houston (74-57) and McNeese State (73-60) to open up December. The bad news for the Aggies in this one is that they have dropped both of their neutral-court matchups, falling to Missouri State (73-67) and SMU (55-52) in the Corpus Christi Challenge in late- November.
Oklahoma has a firm handle on its former Big 12 foe, winning 30 of 40 all- time meetings. The Sooners won last season's matchup on a neutral floor in Oklahoma City, 64-54.
The Sooners suffered a scare earlier in the week against UTA, as they saw their 14-point second-half lead dwindle in the second half, but they never gave up the lead. They shot 49.2 percent from the field on the night, including 11-of-24 from 3-point range, and while they shot less than 70 percent from the free-throw line, they outscored UTA in that department, 16-8. Cameron Clark was the catalyst with 31 points on 5-of-7 from beyond the arc. Buddy Hield added 19 points, while Ryan Spangler chipped in 16 points and eight rebounds.
Oklahoma's scoring prowess has been well established this season, as it ranks eighth in the nation in putting up 88.4 points per game, doing so with impressive percentages from the field (.480), 3-point range (.381) and the foul line (.716). In addition to its +10.5 scoring margin, it also lives in the green when it comes to rebounding (+2.8) and turnovers (+2.6). Clark (18.9 ppg, 6.2 rpg) has been the go-to option with Hield (17.3 ppg) right on his tail, and the duo has combined to drain 39 3-pointers. Jordan Woodard (11.5 ppg), Isaiah Cousins (10.9 ppg) and Ryan Spangler (10.8 ppg, 8.9 rpg) round out one of the most balanced starting lineups in the country.
Texas A&M never trailed in its latest game, as it outshot McNeese State from the field, 46.3 percent to 39.2 percent, and drained 10 3-pointers on its way to the 13-point victory. Four of those long-distance buckets came courtesy of Jamal Jones, who finished with 16 points to go with five rebounds and five assists. Kourtney Roberson posted 14 points, while Alex Caruso registered 13 points and seven assists.
The Aggies are no strangers to efficient shooting, as they shoot just a shade below 50 percent from the field en route to 74.9 points per game, but the biggest reason for their success has been their outstanding defensive play, holding opposing teams to just 37 percent shooting and 61.7 points per game. Roberson (13.4 ppg, 7.5 rpg) acts as an anchor in the low post and shoots an incredible 68.4 percent from the floor. Jones (10.1 ppg) is the only other player in double figures, but Caruso (9.5 ppg, 4.6 apg), Jordan Green (8.9 ppg) and Antwan Space (8.3 ppg, 6.2 rpg) have all been impressive in their own right.
Texas A&M certainly has the defensive prowess to slow down the high-octane Oklahoma scoring attack, but it has also shown to be a completely different team away from Reed Arena, swinging the advantage in favor of the Sooners, who are 3-1 on neutral floors.
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