Solid defensive efforts have been a trademark for Oklahoma this season. The Sooners will likely need another one on Tuesday night at Bud Walton Arena as they face a red-hot shooting Arkansas team that’s won seven straight.
No. 4 Oklahoma (12-0) is coming off a 70-58 victory over Rice on Dec. 22, as it held the Owls to 31.0 percent shooting. The Sooners tied their best start since winning 13 straight to begin the 1989-90 season.
A victory on Tuesday would mark Oklahoma’s best start since winning its first 14 games in 1987-88.
“(Our defense is) what our identity is and what we’ve hung our hat on,” Oklahoma coach Jeff Capel said. “We’ve been in close games, we’ve been in games when we’ve been down. So we had a reference point of not to panic.”
Since a 73-72 win over Southern California on Dec. 4, the Sooners have held their five opponents to 33.7 percent shooting, including 27.1 percent from 3-point range.
Arkansas, meanwhile, is shooting 48.2 percent during its winning streak. The Razorbacks have hit 47.4 percent from beyond the arc in their last two games.
The Sooners tied a season high with 17 turnovers against Rice, 11 in the opening 20 minutes. Arkansas is coming off a 95-56 win over Northwestern State on Saturday as it forced a season-high 29 turnovers.
“Lack of concentration,” said Oklahoma sophomore Blake Griffin, who committed six turnovers for the third time in eight games. “Our focus was elsewhere. I felt like everybody, myself included, were kind of looking forward to the (Christmas) break. We can’t have that.”
Griffin, who had 11 points and six boards in an 83-72 win over Arkansas on Dec. 15, 2007, made up for his poor ball handling against Rice with his ninth double-double of the season - 27 points and 11 rebounds. Griffin is the nation’s leading rebounder (14.1), but Arkansas has outrebounded its last six opponents by an average of 13.0.
Griffin also leads the nation in free throw attempts with 138, but is making just 60.9 percent. He hit 9-of-17 against Rice as the Sooners split 34 foul shots. Arkansas hasn’t been much better lately, shooting 54.5 percent from the free throw line in its last two games, including 20-of-36 against the Demons on Saturday.
Oklahoma freshman guard Willie Warren looks to build off a season-high 31 points against the Owls. The Big 12 Rookie of the Week is averaging 14.9 points this season.
While the Sooners look for back-to-back road wins, Arkansas hopes to improve to 9-0 at home.
On Saturday, the Razorbacks (9-1) notched their 41st straight nonconference victory behind a career-high 27 points from Stefan Welsh. The junior guard, who had nine points in last season’s loss to Oklahoma, hit a career-best six 3-pointers in the win and is shooting 76.9 percent (10-of-13) from 3-point range in his last two games.
“We will have to play our best on both sides of the ball (against Oklahoma),” Arkansas coach John Pelphrey told the school’s official Web site. “We have to overachieve and play better than we have all year.”
The Razorbacks lead the all-time series 12-10, but have dropped five straight to the Sooners.