NORMAN, Okla. -- On Dec. 15, 1990, the Loyola Marymount men’s basketball team scored 112 points at Lloyd Noble Center. And Billy Tubbs’ Oklahoma squad beat the Lions by 60.
The Sooners’ 172 points that night came during a “Billy Ball” era when triple-digit OU point totals were as customary as the Oklahoma wind. Tubbs’ team averaged 96.1 points per game that season and surpassed the century mark 10 times. The three years immediately preceding that one, OU averaged 102.9 points in 1987-88, 102.2 in 1988-89 and 101.3 in 1989-90. The Sooners netted at least 100 points in 52 out of 107 games those three seasons.
The Loyola Marymount men’s basketball team scored 112 points at Lloyd Noble Center. And Billy Tubbs’ Oklahoma squad beat the Lions by 60.
Not impressed? Then consider the following. In the 17-plus years of the Big 12 Conference era (including three games this season), Oklahoma has reached 100 points 12 times in 557 outings. The last season OU averaged more than 80 points per game was 1994-95 when Kelvin Sampson’s first Sooner squad reeled off 81.7 an outing. If you’re counting, that’s 18 years ago.
Times have surely changed. The plunge in points, however, is anything but unique to Norman. Last year, Iona led the nation in scoring. Not by averaging 100 points a game. Not by averaging 90. The Gaels averaged 80.4. Again, that led the country’s 345 Division I teams.
But the pattern, certainly at least in Norman, seems to be headed for another shift. That’s because third-year OU head coach Lon Kruger has implemented an up-tempo style this season that has already yielded improved offensive results.
|FASTER AND FASTER|
|Time Period||OU PPG|
|'13 Summer Trip||90.6|
|'13-'14 (seven games)||88.7|
Last year, the Sooners averaged 70.6 points a contest, which was their highest total in three years. During their five-game exhibition tour of Europe this past August, OU’s younger, smaller, faster team upped that average by 20 points to 90.6 an outing.
The trend has continued this month with the start of the 2013-14 season. In their two preseason exhibition games, the Sooners averaged 96.0 points and scored 104 in a win over Washburn. In the regular season opener, they netted 82 points against an Alabama team that last year gave up just 58.4 points a contest. OU scored 96 points against Mercer and 95 against North Texas. Its 101 points against UALR were its most in a regular season game in nine years.
Through seven games, OU’s scoring is up (averaging 88.7 points to rank 11th nationally), its shooting percentages are up (48.2 overall and 37.7 3-point) and so are its number of possessions.
Can the Sooners sustain their pace of play? And what has to happen for them to do it? Who better to ask than Tubbs, OU’s all-time leader in wins (333) and a coach who guided his 14 Sooner squads to an average of 90.1 points and a total of four No.1 NCAA Tournament seeds.
Tubbs recently provided SoonerSports.com with four keys to successfully playing fast, and then current team members Tyler Neal and Je’lon Hornbeak graded this year’s squad in those areas.
1. SPEED AND QUICKNESS
Coach Billy Tubbs Says:
"It's easier to play offense if you can beat the other team down the floor before they get in position to play defense. Think about it. When you walk the ball down the floor, the defense is already back there ready for you. So they play better. But if you put them in a situation where they're scrambling and they're not necessarily picking up the same guy all the time, then it's advantage offense. That’s what you're always looking for."
Senior Forward Tyler Neal Says:
“I think if this team has anything, it is speed and quickness. You look at our guards and all of them can push it. That’s really the reason we’ve moved toward this faster style. Everyone can handle it, everyone can move, we can get out and push the ball. Even our bigs are fast. Ryan Spangler can really run the floor well and that’s shown in the first three games as he’s gotten a couple layups over the top of the defense.
“I think that’s definitely a major part of a team that wants to run. You’ve got to have an athletic bunch of guys who are not only willing to run but can sprint out and get to their spots early so we can kind of play behind that. Hopefully that eventually wears on the other team. I think speed and quickness is critical to playing an up-tempo style.”
2. MAKE SHOTS
Coach Tubbs Says:
“When I coached, we were going to throw the ball down the floor and shoot that 3 from the corner if we were open and then we were going to bang the boards. It’s conducive to have players who can make shots. It’s one thing to shoot the ball, but you really need to make it. You need players who can get in a rhythm and pull the trigger.”
Sophomore Guard Je'lon Hornbeak Says:
“Last year we defended pretty well but we didn’t shoot the ball particularly well. So far this year it’s pretty much been the opposite. We’ve been shooting well and it’s the defensive intensity we have to pick up. We’re confident we can always play defense, but there were times last year when we couldn’t really get the ball in the hole. That’s one of the main differences this year. Everyone can shoot, everyone can put the ball in the basket and everyone is unselfish and can create for each other. It makes the game a lot easier. It’s really tough to guard us because our top scorers change from game to game. You never know who’s going to come out and score. The bench production has been good this year and we can hit a lot of shots. We had a team goal this summer to make 300,000 shots in June and July. We hit that goal and actually surpassed it. We’re feeling confident.”
3. STAMINA AND WORK ETHIC
Coach Tubbs Says:
“You have to have players who are willing to work hard all the time. That’s what a lot of people don’t realize. They think you’re just running up and down the floor, but it takes a lot of energy, especially on the defensive end. If you press, it takes more energy to defend 100 or 75 percent of the floor than it does 25 percent of the floor. So you need the type of players like Coach Kruger has right now.”
“I think Coach Tubbs is definitely right. Stamina is a huge part of it. But in my four years here, I’ve never felt like you’re in game shape by your first game. No matter how much you run in the preseason, it takes a few games to kind of get into game shape. And Coach Kruger is going to do a good job of keeping us fresh so we can always have guys out there who are ready to go.
“The other part of what Coach Tubbs said -- working hard on defense -- we’re kind of working through that right now. Against North Texas, all it seemed we were worried about was scoring. We scored our most points in four years but only won by 13. So there has to be a conscious effort to attack and push when on offense, but then change our mindset and take it one possession at a time on defense and really come together and work as a group of five.
“I think we made a big step in our last game against Idaho. Our film session was pretty bad after North Texas -- pretty embarrassing and humbling. But the good thing is that it happened in a game where we still got in the win column. So I think we made a nice step after that game and obviously we’re going to be playing bigger and better teams. There’s still a lot of improvement to be made but it was definitely a good step.”
4. SCORE TO SET UP "D"
Coach Tubbs Says:
“You’re trying to get the opponent to play fast with you. When we played at Kansas State in 1988 when Lon was there, we were laying 100 on just about everybody. But that day we couldn’t score. If you can’t score, you can’t get in your presses. So they’re controlling the game. You need to be able to score to set up the press.”
“We have a lot of guys who can create for themselves and create for each other. It makes it easier on the coaches because they don’t have to slow us down to where we have to actually run plays. We can just say, ‘Go out and attack and play.’ It makes the game a lot more fun to watch, more fun to play. It’s just easier when you have playmakers and you can say, ‘Hey, screen right here.’ We’re running, playing, dunking, shooting 3’s. That gets the crowd into it, gets us into it. And we play hard on defense to get steals, layups and dunks. Overall, it creates a better atmosphere for the fans and for us.”