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Run defense in crosshairs for No. 13 Oklahoma

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Run defense in crosshairs for No. 13 Oklahoma

NORMAN, Okla. (AP) Ask one Stoops brother and he'll tell you he loves that Oklahoma gave up over 200 yards rushing for a fourth time this season, as long as the end result was a victory.

Ask another and he'll tell you the performance was unacceptable and things need to be corrected right away with a road game against West Virginia's high-scoring offense coming up on Saturday.

The only common ground is that coach Bob Stoops and defensive coordinator Mike Stoops, his brother, both want the 13th-ranked Sooners (7-2, 5-1 Big 12) to be better.

``We have to stop the run to be a good defense,'' defensive tackle Casey Walker said Monday, leaving no wiggle room. ``The front four has to be solid. It has to be. That's imperative.''

For an ex-defensive coordinator who has always preached stopping the run first, Bob Stoops has been uncommonly accepting of the season-worst 251 yards rushing his team allowed in a 42-34 victory over Baylor on Saturday night. The reason: The Bears came in leading the nation in passing and were held to a season-low 172 yards - 220 below their average.

``That's no consolation,'' his brother countered. ``We want to and we need to play better defense if we want to go the places we want to go.''

At his weekly news conference on Monday, Bob Stoops took a small step back from his postgame proclamation in support of the defense: ``I absolutely love it.'' Looking back at the film, he found too many missed tackles - something he hadn't seen as a problem in previous games.

``To a degree, we'll make some adjustments and again, hopefully make some adjustments on some of the run game,'' Bob Stoops said.

He didn't expect West Virginia (5-4, 2-4) to pose the same issues as Baylor, which frequently spreads receivers within a few steps of both sidelines and ran read option plays with quarterback Nick Florence.

Yet that's not the only run game that has posed the Sooners problems. Kansas State and Notre Dame also eclipsed 200 yards rushing while beating Oklahoma, and UTEP had 207 yards rushing in the opener that was a three-point game in the fourth quarter.

``Everybody's attack is different. Baylor's strategy to work you is a little bit different than theirs, but you've still got speedy receivers, you've still got an excellent quarterback. You don't have as much of the quarterback run game, that kind of thing,'' Bob Stoops said.

``Everybody has their way that they like to try and move the football.''

Mike Stoops saw it differently, calling the tackling ``atrocious'' and the overall run defense ``disappointing'' because the Sooners showed vulnerability both inside and outside the tackles.

``I think they exposed some weaknesses in our defense, and we've got to address them. All the teams we play can do all of the things they did,'' he said. ``You open up Pandora's Box.''

Entering a stretch when they'll play some of the Big 12's most potent passing attacks, Oklahoma frequently used a package with seven defensive backs against Baylor, which could have led to the imbalance in stopping the pass while yielding to the run.

``Good football teams don't miss tackles,'' Walker said. ``It's rare to see a football team that wins with as many missed tackles. You have to correct that quickly because at the end of the day, it'll catch back up with you and that's how you lose a ballgame.

``It was good that we won the game but defensively, the performance could have been better. We've played better.''

Behind quarterback Geno Smith, West Virginia ranks fifth in the nation in passing (347.6 yards per game) and 11th in scoring (40 points per game) but has been at its best when allowed to run the ball. The Mountaineers averaged 164 yards rushing during a five-game winning streak to start the season and just 93.5 during their current five game losing skid, with three straight games in double figures.

``That's No. 1. Stop the run,'' Walker said. ``We harp that every week. We don't even look at the pass. In the defensive tackles' film room, we don't even look at the pass. We don't look at drop-backs or nothing. It's all run.

``If you stop the run, the pass rush, that's just muscle memory.''

Old Dominion at Syracuse Basketball: Date, Time, TV Channel, Live Stream, How to Watch

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USA Today Sports

Old Dominion at Syracuse Basketball: Date, Time, TV Channel, Live Stream, How to Watch

Following a thrilling 72-71 win over rival Georgetown, Syracuse (7-2) returns to the floor on Dec. 15 and welcomes Old Dominion (7-3) to town. The Orange will play four more non-conference games before starting ACC play on Jan. 5 at Notre Dame.

Old Dominion has won five-straight games entering their game against Syracuse. In the Monarchs' last game, B.J. Stith led the way with 28 points and a career-high 14 rebounds. 

Tip-off is scheduled for noon ET and will be broadcast on NBC Sports Washington.

Old Dominion at Syracuse How to Watch

What: Old Dominion Monarchs at Syracuse Orange
Where: Carrier Dome, Syracuse, N.Y.
When: Noon ET
TV Channel: NBC Sports Washington (Channel Finder)

Old Dominion at Syracuse Preview

Conference: ACC (Syracuse), C-USA (Old Dominion)
Record: 7-2 (Syracuse), 7-3 (Old Dominion)
Last Game: 72-71 win vs. Georgetown, 12/8 (Syracuse), 79-69 win vs. Fairfield, 12/9 (Old Dominion)
Leading Scorers: Tyus Battle, 18.0 ppg (Syracuse), Ahmad Caver, 18.5 ppg (Old Dominion)
 

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Drew Gooden describes playing with LeBron James: It was 'like a traveling rock band'

Drew Gooden describes playing with LeBron James: It was 'like a traveling rock band'

LeBron James and the media circus that comes along with him is coming to Washington, D.C., as the Lakers will face off with the Wizards at Capital One Arena.

Drew Gooden played with James for the better part of four seasons in Cleveland from 2004-08, and so he knows exactly what it's like when one of the NBA's greatest players comes to town. 

"It's only real until you actually see it," Gooden said during Thursday's edition of the Wizards Talk podcast. "We used to joke and call ourselves not the Beatles, but the 'Cleatles,' because it was almost like a traveling rock band. And everybody played their part."

Gooden recounted one particular incident during a day off in Detroit in 2006, when he, James and a couple of their teammates went to a shopping mall to buy some watches.

"When we walked into the shopping mall in Detroit, it was like Michael Jackson had entered the shopping mall," Gooden explained. "Kids were running up, grownups were running up, everybody ran into the store we were in. They had to shut it down with mall security, and wouldn't let anybody in."

"The only thing I was thinking of is like, 'How are we gonna get out of here?' Because we came on our own with no security, so we were just thinking of how we were gonna get out of the mall now. And when I saw that star power of LeBron James back in 2006, this was before he won a championship, I couldn't imagine how it is now, and what he's become in today's game."

James' star power has only grown since then, and many have already declared him the greatest basketball player of all-time.

This label in reference to James is nothing new to Drew Gooden: he heard it when they were both teenagers playing AAU baskeball. 

"Calvin Andrews, who was a sports agent of Carmelo Anthony, Calvin Andrews told me when LeBron was 15 years of age, he said, 'You see that guy right there?'" Gooden recalled. "I said, 'Yeah, what about him?'"

"'He's gonna be the best basketball player ever.'"

"So it's no surprise to me, and this is not new to me, it's just I'm more amazed that it actually happened," Gooden concluded. "A lot of people say, 'Oh, he's gonna be the best ever or he has an opportunity of being the best ever.' But I literally heard a man tell me that in Calvin Andrews, and that guy actually becoming one of the best ever, or the best ever." 

For more on LeBron James and the Lakers' upcoming visit to D.C. to take on the Wizards, listen to the full Wizards Talk podcast below.

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