PARADISE ISLAND, Bahamas (AP) — Oklahoma coach Lon Kruger knows the Sooners’ offense will start to click better as the season goes along.
For now, their defense is more than enough.
Holding Butler to 24 percent shooting — the best by an Oklahoma team in nearly 11 years — the Sooners earned a berth in the Battle 4 Atlantis championship game by topping the Bulldogs 59-46 on Thursday afternoon, with Isaiah Cousins’ 13 points leading a balanced offense.
“Our guys’ awareness defensively was as good as it’s been all year,” Kruger said. “We really had five guys working together, which is what you’re supposed to do on the defensive end.”
Oklahoma (4-1) has held each of its opponents this season under 40 percent shooting. Butler’s 14-for-59 performance was the worst against an Oklahoma team since Arkansas-Pine Bluff shot 9-for-44 in a 94-24 loss to the Sooners on Dec. 2, 2003.
Jordan Woodard and TaShawn Thomas each scored 10 points for the Sooners, who made their first 11 shots from 2-point range on the way to a quick 30-14 lead.
Oklahoma meets either No. 2 Wisconsin or Georgetown in the title game Friday afternoon.
“That’s what we came here for. That was our goal,” Cousins said. “We’re striving for greatness.”
Kellen Dunham scored 17 points for Butler (4-1), which knocked off No. 5 North Carolina in the quarterfinals but went scoreless for an 8-minute second-half stretch against the Sooners.
“I’m not too concerned about that,” Butler interim coach Chris Holtmann said. “I think our effort is there. We need to probably clean up a few things and we will, but I think we’ve played two good teams defensively, and I think Oklahoma has a chance to be outstanding defensively.”
Butler missed its first four shots, then had an 0-for-8 drought later in the first half — and what awaited the Bulldogs in the second was even worse.
Butler trailed by as many as 17 early but got the first two baskets after halftime to pull within 36-28 on Andrew Chrabascz’s jump hook with 17:46 left.
That would be the last real hurrah for the Bulldogs.
After Chrabascz’s basket, Butler would miss its next 13 tries from the floor, including eight misfires from around the rim.
And that was more than enough for the Sooners, who scored 11 straight points to go up 47-28 on Cousins’ 3-pointer with 9:42 left.
“We couldn’t make shots,” Chrabascz said. “If a couple more shots went in, it could have been a completely different game.”
Butler: The Bulldogs were facing Oklahoma for the first time since falling to the Sooners in the Sweet 16 of the 2003 NCAA tournament in Albany, New York. … Butler entered the tournament shooting 56 percent on the season. The Bulldogs have shot a combined 32 for 131 — 24 percent — in the ballroom-turned-arena at the Atlantis resort. … Dunham has more 3-pointers in his Butler career (148) than all other current Bulldogs combined (109).
Oklahoma: The Sooners finished 18 for 27 from 2-point range, 2 for 17 from 3-point range. … After Butler grabbed a staggering 57 rebounds against North Carolina, the Sooners finished with a 41-32 edge on the backboards Thursday.
TOP 2 SO FAR
Helped in part by Battle 4 Atlantis participants Butler, Oklahoma and Georgetown, the Bulldogs-Sooners game pitted teams from the conferences with the best combined records in Division I entering the day. The Big East was 39-3; the Big 12 was 40-7.
Oklahoma forward Ryan Spangler had 10 rebounds on Thursday and only two shots. Spangler has 10 or more rebounds in four of Oklahoma’s first five games.
Butler: Either No. 2 Wisconsin or Georgetown in third-place game Friday.
Oklahoma: Either No. 2 Wisconsin or Georgetown in championship game Friday.
Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.