Oklahoma came to Alaska looking for something positive to help it bounce back from its first loss of the season. With one game remaining on the trip, it still hasn’t found anything.
The 25th-ranked Sooners try to avoid a fourth consecutive loss and salvage a small portion of the trip when they face winless Nicholls State on Saturday in the fifth-place game of the Great Alaska Shootout.
The only ranked school in the six-team field, Oklahoma (2-3) has been the tournament’s biggest disappointment after falling 76-64 to San Diego in Wednesday’s opener and 100-93 to Houston on Thursday. The Sooners were still considered the favorite to win the tournament title despite losing 82-69 at Virginia Commonwealth last Saturday.
With its days in the Top 25 numbered, Oklahoma tries to avoid finishing last in the event while looking to remain perfect against Nicholls State (0-7). The Sooners are 4-0 all-time against the Colonels, who lost 78-69 to Washington State on Friday night. This is the first meeting between the schools since Oklahoma’s 64-44 home win Dec. 12, 1998.
Despite the Colonels’ struggles early this season, the Sooners need to show some overall improvement while trying to avoid the school’s first four-game losing streak since dropping six in a row from Feb. 13-March 3, 2007.
Oklahoma can start by holding on to a lead. The Sooners shot a season-high 53.6 percent and led by as many as 18 points in the first half against Houston, but the Cougars made 14 of 24 shots in the final 20 minutes and went on a 19-4 run to pull off the upset.
“We built a big lead, and I thought we relaxed. When we relaxed we became careless with the basketball,” said Sooners coach Jeff Capel, whose team committed a season-high 18 turnovers Thursday.
Willie Warren scored 25 points and freshman Steven Pledger added a career-high 23 for Oklahoma, which is allowing an average of 86.0 points during its three-game skid.
Warren continues to be the team’s most consistent offensive option. The sophomore guard is averaging 20.4 points and has totaled 55 in his last two contests. He was 8 for 11 from the field against Houston after going 7 for 20 with 30 points a day earlier versus San Diego.
Warren could be in for another big game against Nicholls State, which fell short of its first victory of the season against Washington State.
Fred Hunter scored a season-high 25 points and Anatoly Bose added 16 as the Colonels led by two at halftime. The Cougars, though, shot 59.1 percent for the game and scored 49 points in the second half.
Bose, who’s averaging a team-leading 16.7 points per game, bounced back after being held to six on 2-of-9 shooting in a 72-58 loss to host Alaska-Anchorage on Thursday.
Nicholls State has lost eight in a row dating to an 80-75 win over Texas State in the Southland Conference tournament last season.