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Preview: Oklahoma at Texas

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(Globalpost/GlobalPost)

Oklahoma looks to bounce back from a disappointing loss to Louisiana Tech on Saturday when the Sooners visit Texas in the Big 12 Conference opener for both teams. The Longhorns lost their top four scorers from last season, but they’ve become a popular sleeper pick after going 11-2 in non-conference play with a signature win at North Carolina on Dec. 18. Oklahoma had won seven straight following a loss to Michigan State before Monday’s 102-98 overtime loss to Louisiana Tech.

The Sooners average 87.2 points with five players scoring in double figures, and senior forward Cameron Clark has been among the league’s most improved players while raising his scoring average from last season's 6.5 points to 18.5 this season. Clark's primary competition for the most improved award might come from Texas center Cameron Ridley, who scored 14 points in Monday’s 66-44 win over Rice. “Ridley was the difference in the game,” said Rice coach Ben Braun. “He has really improved from a year ago. He really helps the team out.”

TV: 8 p.m. ET, Longhorn Network

ABOUT OKLAHOMA (11-2): Coach Lon Kruger was frustrated by his team’s defensive performance against Louisiana Tech, when the Bulldogs shot 45.7 percent. “We have got to start guarding people better and working harder to keep the ball out of the paint and out of the net,” Kruger told reporters. “You just can’t feel real good about what we are doing defensively. We have got to work hard to make big strides quickly.” Forward Ryan Spangler averages 11 points and a team-high 9.5 rebounds for the Sooners, who are allowing a conference-worst 77.8 points per game.

ABOUT TEXAS (11-2): The Longhorns didn’t win their 11th game last season until mid-February, but coach Rick Barnes’ young squad is brimming with confidence after a successful non-conference run. Guards Isaiah Taylor, Javan Felix and Demarcus Holland average a combined 32.5 points, and Barnes indicated that freshman guard Martez Walker could see more playing time moving forward. Texas has outrebounded 11 of its first 13 opponents, and junior forward Jonathan Holmes leads the team in scoring (13.1) while averaging 6.9 rebounds.

TIP-INS

1. Oklahoma leads the all-time series 48-35, but Texas has won 14 of the last 17 meetings.

2. Texas is 111-15 at home over the last eight seasons.

3. Oklahoma G Jordan Woodard has averaged 15.8 points over the last five games.

PREDICTION: Texas 81, Oklahoma 77

http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/thomson-reuters/140104/preview-oklahoma-at-texas