Oklahoma coach Jeff Capel has a simple reason why his team has lost back-to-back games in lackluster fashion: It’s not very good.
The 25th-ranked Sooners try to get back on track Thursday night against Houston in the second day of the Great Alaska Shootout.
Oklahoma (2-2) knew it would be tough to duplicate the success it had last season when national player of the year Blake Griffin led the team to a 30-6 record and into the NCAA tournament regional finals, but it probably didn’t envision struggling this much.
After losing to Virginia Commonwealth 82-69 on Saturday, the Sooners fell to San Diego 76-64 on Wednesday night in the first round of this event.
Oklahoma, which hasn’t opened a season with losses in three of its first five games since 1995-96, wasn’t really in either defeat, trailing the Rams by as many as 17 and falling behind the Toreros by as much as 23.
“We’re not a very good team right now,” Capel said.
A sluggish offense is a big reason for the two losses.
The Sooners made 32.8 percent of their shots Wednesday after connecting on 5 of 26 shots (19.2 percent) from 3-point range against VCU.
Sophomore guard Willie Warren, who averages a team-best 19.3 points, is shooting 29.4 percent in the last two games—22.2 (4 of 18) from beyond the arc. He finished with 30 points Wednesday, mostly after the outcome was decided.
Oklahoma’s defense hasn’t been much better, failing to come up with key stops.
“It’s our fourth game, and we’ve yet to defend at the level we need to defend at,” Capel said.
If the defense struggles again, the Sooners will likely have their hands full trying to stop a high-powered Houston offense led by Aubrey Coleman.
The 6-foot-4 Coleman finished with 32 points in Saturday’s 112-99 loss to Nevada after scoring 33 in a season-opening 92-60 win over Nicholls State on Nov. 17.
Despite Coleman’s big game Saturday, Houston (1-1) was sloppy, turning the ball over 23 times while getting outrebounded 57-27.
“We didn’t match their intensity from the beginning,” coach Tom Penders said. “It’s a tough loss but our kids learned a lot. We have got to bounce back.”
This will be the Cougars’ first game of the tournament, and they’ll play San Diego on Friday.
In the only other meeting between these teams, Oklahoma won 55-51 on Dec. 16, 1960.