Oklahoma survived a few scares over the course of its longest undefeated start in nearly two decades. With that run over thanks to defensive struggles in their last game, the Sooners know they have some work to do before opening conference play.
The fourth-ranked Sooners look to bounce back from their first loss as they host Coppin State on Saturday in one of their final tuneups before the start of Big 12 competition.
Oklahoma (12-1) won its first 12 games for its best start since also opening 12-0 in 1989-90 en route to a 27-5 finish. The Sooners had a few close calls during their early season run, including back-to-back four-point wins over then-No. 21 Davidson and Gardner-Webb, an overtime victory over then-No. 10 Purdue and a hard-fought 73-72 win over Southern California.
Though they were able to come out on top in each of those contests, the Sooners couldn’t keep their streak alive Tuesday night. They fell behind 21-8 early in their first game in more than a week and trailed by as many as 25 in a 96-88 road loss to Arkansas.
It was the highest point total recorded against Oklahoma since a 96-91 loss to Washington on Nov. 26, 2004. The Sooners entered Tuesday’s game leading the Big 12 in opponents’ field goal percentage at 37.9 before allowing the Razorbacks to shoot 51.7 percent (30-for-58).
“Everything was about the defense for us tonight,” said Oklahoma coach Jeff Capel, whose team finishes its non-conference schedule Monday with a home game against Maryland-Eastern Shore. “… I don’t know whether we were tired or what, but we had some lapses and (Arkansas) made us pay for them.”
The Sooners’ first loss overshadowed the strong play of freshman Willie Warren. The 6-foot-4 guard scored a season-high 35 points while connecting on 12 of 22 shots, including 7-of-11 from 3-point range. It was the second consecutive 30-point game for Warren, who had 31 in a 70-58 win at Rice on Dec. 22.
Warren’s second on the team and fourth among Division I freshman with 16.5 points per game.
Warren has a good chance to continue the strong start to his college career in a matchup with the lowly Eagles (2-10), who have already faced three ranked opponents. Coppin State has lost those games - against then-No. 11 Purdue, then-No. 22 Kansas and then-No. 17 Syracuse - by an average of 21.0 points. It’s dropped its last 31 games against Top 25 teams - all on the road - since a 78-65 win over No. 6 South Carolina on March 14, 1997.
The Eagles are coming off a 59-53 win over George Washington on Tuesday. Tywain McKee had team highs of 16 points and eight rebounds as Coppin State snapped a 10-game losing streak.
McKee, a senior, is averaging a career-high 19.3 points - 9.0 more than any other player on the team. He’s averaged 21.7 points and 3.7 steals while shooting 49.1 percent against ranked teams this season.
Oklahoma standout Blake Griffin is first in the Big 12 with 22.8 points per game and leads Division I with 14.0 rebounds per contest. He had 21 points and 13 boards against Arkansas for his 10th double-double of 2008-09, matching his total from his freshman season.