Sooners return to action, hoping to exercise Demons

Nov 23, 2014 - 4:15 PM Norman, OK ( - The 18th-ranked Oklahoma Sooners will try to ease some of the pain from their first loss of the season when they play host to the Demons of Northwestern State on Sunday afternoon.

Northwestern State comes into the contest on the plus side of the ledger, as it has won two of its first three games. The team dropped a 109-68 decision at Texas A&M in the season opener, but has since bounced back to notch double- digit wins over a pair of smaller programs in Lyon College (75-63) and LSU- Alexandria (89-79).

Oklahoma began the season with a 78-53 triumph over visiting Southeastern Louisiana, but then hit the road to battle Creighton in a game that wound up going to the Bluejays in a 65-63 final. It's imperative the Sooners get back on track here, as they will tangle with some formidable foes in the coming weeks, including UCLA next Wednesday in the Bahamas (Battle 4 Atlantis), and then perhaps North Carolina on Thanksgiving Day, should the Tar Heels advance.

Oklahoma has won all four previous meetings between the two teams, although the last was a close call as it prevailed, 69-65, on Nov. 30, 2011.

Despite some lackluster shooting (.408 overall, .220 3-point), Northwestern State has done well enough at the offensive end this season, as the team averages 77.3 ppg. Unfortunately, the team's defensive effort has been severely lacking as foes generate 84 ppg in hitting 47.4 percent of their total shots, which includes a 36.2 percent showing from beyond the arc. The Demons are also -5.3 in rebounding margin, but they are on the plus side of the turnover battle (+3) despite coughing the ball up an average of 16.3 times themselves.

Zeek Woodley, who leads the team on the season with 19.0 ppg, shot 11-of-19 from the field to finish with 27 points, and Jalen West (16.7 ppg, 7.3 apg) feasted at the foul line in going 13-of-14 to tally 22, as Northwestern State outlasted LSU-Alexandria a few nights back. The Demons made good on 46.3 percent of their field goal attempts, while logging a 19-7 edge in points from the charity stripe, and goading the opposition into a whopping 24 turnovers.

Buddy Hield has clearly been Oklahoma's best player here in the early going, as he is averaging 23.0 points, 7.0 rebounds and 3.0 assists per game. Ryan Spangler comes in averaging a double-double with 11.0 points and 11.0 caroms per contest, while Isaiah Cousins rounds out the unit's double-digit scorers with 10.0 ppg to go with a solid rebounding figure of 7.5 rpg. As a team, the Sooners are scoring 70.5 ppg, but shooting just 37.2 percent from the field. They are actually converting their 3-pointers at a better rate (.378).

Hield hit for 21 points in the narrow loss to Creighton, but his 7-of-18 shooting effort helped drag down the team's overall percentage to just .355. Oklahoma did manage to knock down eight 3-pointers and go 11-of-14 at the foul line, but the Bluejays were equally as effective from downtown, while scoring just a few more at the stripe (15-of-21). TaShawn Thomas scored 14 points, while Spangler finished with 11 points and 11 boards for the Sooners.

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