Mike Anderson doesn’t have a relationship with many of the coaches in the Big 12 yet. But he does have one with Oklahoma coach Jeff Capel.
In the past three seasons, Anderson’s Alabama-Birmingham Blazers beat Capel’s Virginia Commonwealth Commodores. In each victory, the Blazers used a system that was then called the “Fastest 40 Minutes in College
Basketball.” In three games, the Blazers got 32 steals and only allowed VCU to score more than 60 points once, winning the three games by a combined 42 points.
“It’s very difficult to prepare for, because you can’t simulate it,” Capel said of Anderson’s style of play. To try to prepare his team for Missouri, Capel has emulated what Illinois coach Bruce Weber did before his team played Missouri. Instead of playing a standard five-on-five in practice, Capel has made his team play five-on-seven, trying to recreate the lack of space Missouri’s defense can cause, while also forcing the Sooners to make quicker decisions with the basketball.
Capel also said he hasn’t been calling as many fouls as he usually does in practice, a ploy that could allow the Sooners to play a more physical style of basketball and get used to the aggressive nature of Missouri’s defense.
“We’ve told our guys on defense just to kind of go all over the place,” Capel said. “Just foul and really try to reach and try to get the ball. But the fact is, we don’t do it every day like Missouri does. We don’t practice it every day, we don’t play it every day. So, as much as we try to simulate it, you can’t get to the real thing of what they do.”
Oklahoma (15-10, 6-6 Big 12) plays at a much slower pace than Missouri prefers. It has been an effective pace.
Despite scoring just 66.2 points per game in conference play, Oklahoma is .500 in the Big 12 and still has an outside chance to make the NCAA Tournament.
The Sooners can still think about a bid thanks to their defense, which allows just 61.8 points per game. Missouri’s allows 72.5 points per game.
The Sooners also have two frontcourt players that could cause Missouri some trouble. Center Longar Longar, the player who elbowed Texas Tech center Esmir Rizvic in the face, is averaging 11.8 points and 7.6 rebounds. Forward Nate Carter is averaging 17.1 points in conference play, but has scored only 12 in the Sooners’ past two games.
“They present a lot of matchups,” Anderson said. “It’s a team that’s playing good basketball.”
THE HONORABLE KEON: Tigers guard Keon Lawrence was named the Big 12 Rookie of the Week on Monday. In Missouri’s past two games, Lawrence, a freshman, scored 21 points per game in wins over Baylor and Oklahoma State. Known more for his scoring, Lawrence also showed an ability to rebound, getting eight in both games. He also got six offensive rebounds on Wednesday against Baylor.
“He’s progressing, that’s the key,” Anderson said. “The thing I’m really happy to see is that he’s taken upon him on the defensive side of the ball. It’s evident by his rebounds. He’s rebounding the ball. He gives us another dimension in terms of a ball-handler, attacking guard.
“He’s kind of giving our team a breath of fresh air because he’s healthy now.”
This is the fourth time a Tiger has won Rookie of the Week this season. Stefhon Hannah has won the award three times, most recently on Jan. 29. This also is the first time the Tigers have won this award four times in a season. In the 1999-2000 season, Missouri players won the award three times, with Kareem Rush winning the honor twice and Tajudeen Soyoye claiming it once.