Oklahoma Sooners vs. Green Bay Phoenix Pick & Prediction DECEMBER 16th 2023

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Oklahoma’s offense has gotten plenty of attention, as the 11th-ranked Sooners are off to their best start since the 2015-16 season.

But it’s the defense, Oklahoma coach Porter Moser said, that is playing the biggest role in his team’s turnaround heading into Saturday night’s game against Green Bay in Norman, Okla.

“We’re trying to play more up-tempo, score more points, get more possessions, but the biggest thing we’re saying is you don’t want to do it at the expense of your defense,” Moser said. “We’ve got some pieces for us that can guard. Otega (Oweh), Rivaldo (Soares), Le’Tre (Darthard) — they can really guard. Jalon Moore.”

The Sooners (9-0) enter the game in the top 30 in both scoring offense and scoring defense nationally, averaging 84.8 points per game while allowing just 62.9.

Javian McCollum has been fairly steady all season but has especially stood out in the last two games, a home win over Providence and a neutral-site win over Arkansas on Saturday in Tulsa, Okla.

The Siena transfer made it to the foul line a season-high eight times in the win over Arkansas, making all of his free throws.

“He controls the tempo of every game,” teammate Sam Godwin said. “He’s the head of our snake offensively, and he’s a great leader for us. It’s just the work that he puts in every day. It’s not really a surprise to any of the guys in the locker room. We see him getting shots before practice, after practice. This dude just loves the game.”

Moser hopes to avoid a letdown after the convincing wins over Providence and Arkansas and with a showdown with No. 9 North Carolina looming next week in Charlotte.

A victory Saturday would push the Sooners closer to the 12-game winning streak they rode to open the 2015-16 season, when they reached the Final Four. Oklahoma also is looking to equal the 10 consecutive games they won early in the 2017-18 season.

Green Bay (5-6) is coming off a 70-68 win at Illinois-Chicago on Tuesday to snap a two-game losing streak.

Even in their recent losses, the Phoenix have been competitive, with their last five losses coming by single digits.

That’s a big step considering Green Bay won just three games all of last season.

“You’ve got a group of guys from the top down who are bought into the system, who are bought into the culture,” senior guard Ryan Wade told the Green Bay Press Gazette. “The culture was being established with a whole new team, a whole new coaching staff.”

Wade is one of just three returners from last year’s team after Sundance Wicks was hired as the Phoenix’s head coach.

But beating the Sooners figures to be a tall task.

Green Bay hasn’t beaten a ranked team or a power conference team since knocking off No. 15 Miami on Dec. 6, 2014.

The Phoenix’s only game against a major-conference opponent this season came in the opener, a 41-point loss at Iowa State.

Noah Reynolds averages a team-best 18.5 points and 4.9 assists per game for the Phoenix.

–Field Level Media

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