Notre Dame facing a daunting task at Oklahoma

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Notre Dame facing a daunting task at Oklahoma

Bob Stoops has coached 83 games at Gaylord Family-Oklahoma Memorial Stadium in his 14-year tenure in Norman. His teams have only lost four times.

Thats a fairly daunting number for the No. 5 Irish to face this weekend, with plenty of BCS implications on the line against the No. 8 Sooners. But Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly said Tuesday he doesnt think his team is frightened by that 79-4 mark.

We've got so many other things our guys have to worry about, whether they're stepping with their right foot or left foot, Kelly said. Those numbers are really not something we bring up. But clearly we know how good they are.

If Notre Dame does pull off the win, itll be with a quarterback whos only started five collegiate games. But Everett Golson wouldnt be the first inexperienced signal-caller to beat Stoops in Norman.

In 2001, freshman Josh Fields -- who went on to play third base for the White Sox -- replaced junior Aso Pogi early and piloted Les Miles' Oklahoma State squad to a 16-13 win. Pogi threw two interceptions in his first nine passes and was yanked for Fields, who only threw one interception the rest of the way.

Texas Tech's Seth Doege, in his first year as a full-time starter, went into Norman and threw for 441 yards in a shocking win over then-No. 3 Oklahoma last year -- but he at least had some game experience dating back to 2009. TCU's Tye Gunn was a senior when the Horned Frogs became the second team to defeat Stoops at Owen Field in 2005. And K-State senior Collin Klein, who led the No. 3 Wildcats to a 24-19 win in September, is arguably the favorite to win the Heisman Trophy this year.

While Stoops' 79-4 home record certainly appears intimidating, half of those losses have come in the last two years, and it's important to note the Red River Shootout is annually played in Dallas -- so OU doesn't have to play Texas in Norman.

In fact, Saturday's game will mark just the fourth time Stoops has faced a team ranked in the top 10 at home:

Oct. 28, 2000: 31-14 win vs. No. 1 Nebraska
Oct. 19, 2002: 49-3 win vs. No. 9 Iowa State
Nov. 22, 2008: 65-21 win vs. No. 2 Texas Tech

Still, four losses in 83 home games is just one way the strength of Oklahomas program has materialized. Stoops has taken OU to a bowl game in each of his 14 years, including two BCS bowl wins and a national championship in 2000. Make no mistake, its Oklahoma -- not Texas -- thats been the class of the Big 12 for the last decade and a half. Few schools can boast the success Oklahoma has enjoyed under Stoops, and its something Kelly and Notre Dame are shooting for.

That's where we want to be, Kelly said. We want that consistency. Year in and year out you know Oklahoma is going to be part of the conversation. And that's where we want to get our football program. We're nowhere near that yet. We think we're moving in the right direction. We're trending the right way.

But I think the hallmark of great programs is that consistency, the consistency that we saw here for a number of years that we haven't seen, we want to be able to bring that back. And that takes time. And that takes a lot of winning, and that's why there's so much pride and tradition in their program as well.

Doug McDermott's return boosts Bulls' bench

Doug McDermott's return boosts Bulls' bench

Doug McDermott wasn’t exactly hunting for his first shot, but the first time he touched the ball in an NBA game in nearly a month wasn’t the optimal situation for him to let one fly.

It wasn’t in transition where he runs to an opening behind the 3-point line, nor was it a drive-and-kick situation where the help defense collapsed and left him open. It was a regular, simple, pass to the perimeter and McDermott’s defender was in reasonable proximity with 3:23 left in the first quarter.

He launched and the crowd soon roared its approval as his sweet jumper was sorely missed by the Bulls bench brigade—and moments later when he ran the floor for a fearless layup that caused Spurs coach Gregg Popovich to call a timeout, McDermott showed he missed the United Center crowd too, calling for more noise on his way to the bench.

“Anytime you have a guy like Doug, he comes back and makes his first 3, that’s hard to do,” Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg said. “He stepped up with confidence on that first shot. I’m sure he had a lot of nerves getting back out there.”

Missing 12 games and suffering two concussions, McDermott looked right at home in 25 minutes of run Thursday as the Bulls were able to rely on their reserves in some form in their 95-91 win over the previously perfect road warriors known as the Spurs.

“We defended and kept them off the foul line,” McDermott said. “Coach (Jim) Boylen was with them, so we feel we know them and I think all this time they were missing my defense.”

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The last statement was certainly tongue-in-cheek, but the Bulls’ bench production was certainly missing in action while he was out with the concussion protocol. So much so that his return prompted the Bulls’ coaching staff to call out the reserves in the morning shootaround, demanding more.

“It’s definitely Dwyane (Wade) and Jimmy (Butler) and (Rajon) Rondo (but) the coaching staff kinda called out our bench like, we gotta have you tonight, bench,” McDermott said. “We took that to heart, we were really locked in.”

Seemingly his presence aided the Bulls’ spirits and production, as the Bulls’ bench had the least effective scoring bench in the NBA since Nov. 13, the day after McDermott hit the unforgiving floor against the Wizards for his second concussion this season.

Their net rating ranks ahead of only the Wizards, Mavericks and Nets, who are a combined 17-45 this season. Their effective field goal percentage, which takes into account 3-pointers, is worst in the league in that span (42.3 percent).

When McDermott was healthy for that smaller sample size, the Bulls’ bench ranked fifth in offensive efficiency, seventh in net rating, and fifth in efficient field goal percentage. Whether McDermott – and his absence – was directly related to those numbers, it’s clear the Bulls are better when they have their best reserve – and only true floor spacers on the second unit – on the court.

“We’re all professionals and we want to help the guys who are busting their butts in the first unit to get us the leads,” McDermott said. “Tonight we did a great job of sustaining it. We take it personal when teams come back on us.”

[MORE: Pau Gasol relishes consistency with Spurs he couldn't find with Bulls]

Nikola Mirotic was four of eight from the field, and Cristiano Felicio seems to be back in Fred Hoiberg’s good graces as he’s carved out a rotation spot for himself with nine points and seven rebounds in 18 minutes.

It seems as if Hoiberg will stick with this rotation of players, at least for a little while until Michael Carter-Williams returns from his injuries. If McDermott is the mark of the Bulls’ bench going from bottom feeder to adequate, it should show this month.

“When he’s out there on the floor and we get him coming off screens, it forces the defense to shift as another person they need to be aware of,” Hoiberg said. “It opens up driving lanes for our guys. It was great to have Doug back with us.”

Morning Update: Bulls beat Spurs in Pau Gasol's return to Chicago

Morning Update: Bulls beat Spurs in Pau Gasol's return to Chicago

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