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December 29, 2012

Improved shooting becomes focus for OU

NORMAN, Okla. — Most aspects of Oklahoma’s Thursday practice were typical. There was lots of full-court scrimmaging at a rapid pace.

There was one major alteration, though. Every 10 minutes or so, players broke into groups of three or four and shot jump shots — the same kind the Sooners have struggled to make in their first 10 games.

“We have to make more shots,” OU coach Lon Kruger said. “We have to shoot the ball better. Since we’ve been back at practice, we’ve been getting a lot of shots in practice and more before and after. When it’s all said and done, it comes down to making shots.”

The ability to make those jumpers is the difference between the Sooners entering Christmas break at 7-3, instead of — possibly — 9-1.

It’s not just 3-pointers that have been clanging off the rim. OU’s hitting those at just a 31.2-percent clip. It isn’t a great by any stretch, but it would be doable if the Sooners were shooting better inside the perimeter. After last Saturday’s loss to Stephen F. Austin, they were shooting just 45.1 percent inside the 20-feet, 9-inch arc.

Hence, the jump-shot filled afternoon Thursday. It will continue through today and, hopefully, lead to some success when OU faces Ohio at 7 p.m. Saturday at Lloyd Noble Center.

“On the year, we just haven’t made shots and it has surprised me a little bit,” Kruger said. “I still think we’ll shoot a lot better if we keep working at it.”

There’s ample room to improve. OU doesn’t have one player in its regular 10-man rotation shooting better than 50 percent. Leading scorer Romero Osby is shooting 48.8 percent, but has made up for it by shooting 80.8 percent at the free-throw line.

Steven Pledger is hitting at just a 41-percent clip. Amath M’Baye is shooting 50 percent inside the 3-point line, but the 0-for-7 performance from the beyond arc has hurt. Even Andrew Fitzgerald, who entered the season as a career 48.1-percent shooter, is struggling (40.6 percent).

Players are as perplexed as Kruger.

“Every time we step on the court, we expect to be a mismatch team. We have a lot of different guys that can make a lot of plays,” forward Romero Osby said. “It has been difficult and kinda frustrating.

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