If the pace of Michigan State’s victory against Virginia was a walk in the park, the Spartans’ next outing will feel like a downhill sprint. Michigan State will have its hands full keeping up with the Sooners, who have a 20-second timer in their heads; the 35-second shot clock is never an issue for OU.
With Oklahoma’s up-tempo style, expect the Sooners to try to force MSU guard Denzel Valentine into foul trouble, which happened in the first half Sunday against Virginia.
|(3) Oklahoma vs. (7) Michigan State|
|10:07 p.m. ET Friday | TBS|
The Sooners’ Buddy Hield was the Big 12 Player of the Year and is averaging 15 points per game in the tournament. Overall, OU is averaging 70.5 ppg; Michigan State is at 65.0.
“I think we’re going to have to play defense for a lot less seconds,” Michigan State coach Tom Izzo said, “but our transition defense is going to be very, very critical.”
Certainly the Sooners are going to mash the gas, trying to run the ball off an inbounds pass or a rebound. “We’re just going to keep pushing, grinding,” Izzo said.
Michigan State has committed only 15 turnovers in two games, including six against Virginia. Will that change with Oklahoma applying pressure up and down the court?
“I think we could have a test run for the 20‑second shot clock in this game — it will be the reverse opposite of what we just went through,” Izzo said Tuesday.
Oklahoma presents Michigan State with matchup problems in the paint and on the perimeter. From the outside, OU has three players — Buddy Hield, Isaiah Cousins and Frank Booker — who have attempted at least 100 3-pointers.
Michigan State’s front court of Branden Dawson, Matt Costello and Gavin Schilling will be formidable but the Sooners’ defense, which is holding opponents under 40 percent shooting, should be the difference-maker.
OU’s transition game and, ultimately, its defense will be the one-two punch to fend off the upset-minded Spartans.