How the Sooners can get back on track

NORMAN, Okla. -- Bedlam looms large.

Having lost its first two Big 12 games, Oklahoma travels to Stillwater to face Oklahoma State on Monday night. The Sooners' 10-2 start seems like a distant memory after OU suffered blowout losses to Kansas and Missouri last week.

If the Sooners hope to win Bedlam, and knock off Kansas State on Saturday to get to 2-2 in Big 12 play, some things have to change immediately. Otherwise, the Sooners could be looking at am 0-4 start to conference play.

Here are five things the Sooners can do to get things heading back in the right direction:

Get Cameron Clark involved on offense

People often forget the sophomore was a consensus top 40 player in the Class of 2010. Clark is often the best athlete on the court, but continues to let the defense off the hook by playing passive on both ends of the floor.

He is averaging 8.5 points on 38.5 percent shooting with 3.6 rebounds, 1.6 assists and 0.6 blocks per game. His numbers are down from his freshman year in every category except assists while playing nine minutes less per game.

Trying to get Clark to play more aggressively has become a priority for the Sooners.

"He's one of those guys that's real nonchalant, laid back," forward Romero Osby said. "Sometimes you have to be like, 'Come on Cam, we need you.' You aren't going to find many guys as athletic and as talented as he is."

Get better production from the bench

Oklahoma is relying too much on its starters. Clark, Osby, Sam Grooms, Steven Pledger and Andrew Fitzgerald have accounted for 74.3 percent of the Sooners' points this season. And those five players account for the majority of OU's rebounds and assists.

Thus, those five Sooners enter each game knowing the outcome is riding on their play. If Tyler Neal, Carl Blair or C.J. Washington can begin consistently providing a spark off the bench, it will help lessen the pressure on the starters. Neal, Blair, Washington and even Barry Honore have had their moments when they've impacted games this year but not game in and game out.

If this does not change, fatigue could be OU's biggest opponent down the stretch in conference action.

Have Sam Grooms attack defenses with his handles

It's like beating a dead horse, but Grooms is the Sooners' best penetrator off the dribble. There are too many times when OU is struggling offensively and having difficulty getting good shots off. Those are the times when Grooms needs to forget running the team or the offense and get a layup or wide open shot for a teammate by driving into the lane.

Grooms is a good passer, recording 77 of OU's 201 total assists while averaging 6.8 points. But he could easily average double figure points if he picked the right times to attack the basket for layups, particularly if he lets the defense dictate if he shoots or drops off a pass once he gets into the lane.

Run more early plays for Steven Pledger

Pledger is second on the team with 151 field goal attempts (behind Andrew Fitzgerald's 156) so it sounds crazy to say the Sooners don't look Pledger's way enough.

But they don't.

The junior is shooting 51.7 percent from the field and 46.8 from beyond the three-point line. Sometimes a contested shot from Pledger is a better shot than a wide open shot for one of his teammates.

OU tends to open games by feeding Andrew Fitzgerald in the post -- and he's been productive averaging 12.6 points per game -- yet the Sooners need to make sure Pledger gets up at least five shots in the first 10 minutes of the game. He's too good of a shooter not to get him involved early. And if he's shooting well in the first half it opens the post for Fitzgerald, driving lanes for Grooms and creates open shots for Osby for the remainder of the game.

Force more turnovers and steals to get easy buckets

If you notice, this is the first mention of OU's defense. The Sooners' defense has been solid with consistent effort and active play throughout the season.

But Oklahoma hasn't been creating turnovers which lead to fast break points in its first two conference games.

OU averages 6.4 steals per game but the Sooners didn't get into transition against Missouri or Kansas, resulting in back-to-back games with less than 40 percent shooting. Blair is the lone Sooner shooting better than 42 percent (2 of 4, 50 percent) in conference play.

A good portion of OU's non-conference success was due to forcing turnovers which led to easy dunks or layups. That part of their game has been absent since Big 12 action began.

Brandon Chatmon covers University of Oklahoma sports and recruiting for SoonerNation. He can be reached at bchatmonespn@gmail.com.

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