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Harvard-Oklahoma Preview

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Unbeaten Oklahoma is coming off its closest game yet, and another could be on the way with Harvard coming around after a tough start to the season.

The third-ranked Sooners meet the Crimson in the Diamond Head Classic title game Friday night in Honolulu hoping to extend their best start since 2008-09.

After an 84-81 semifinal win over Hawaii on Wednesday, the Sooners are 10-0 for the first time since winning their first 12 games seven seasons ago. It was their first game decided by single digits since opening with an 84-78 win at Memphis on Nov. 17.

"It was actually a really tough game," said Sooners forward Khadeem Lattin, who had a career-high 17 points with eight rebounds.

"Their guys were good, you've got to give it up to them. We just had to come out and really just play as hard as we could. They made shots and so we just had to always bounce back and it took us a while to become the aggressor."

Oklahoma's not really used to its opposition making too many shots, limiting teams to a 35.3 percent and 27.2 from 3-point range. Hawaii was the first team to score 80 points against Lon Kruger's team, and the 45.5 percent shooting mark was also a season high.

But no one has been able to put together a strong offensive game against the Sooners while also limiting their outside shooting. Oklahoma was 8 of 17 from 3-point range and is hitting 47.2 percent for the season, which ranks second in the nation and is 5.8 percent higher than the 1986-87 team's best mark in school history.

Top scorer Buddy Hield has led that with a 52.3 percent season mark and did it again in the semis, hitting 5 of 9 and finishing with 27 points. The senior has been especially impressive in the last four game with 28.8 points and a 17-of-30 mark from long range.

Harvard (5-6) reached the finals with Wednesday's 69-51 win over Auburn. The Crimson got off to a 2-6 start, but that sixth loss - a 75-69 defeat at then-No. 4 Kansas on Dec. 5 - seemed to wake them up. They're unbeaten since with a win at Boston before opening the tournament with an 85-82 overtime victory over BYU on Tuesday.

The win over Auburn came in large part because of an impressive defensive effort, limiting the Tigers to 30.2 percent and 6 of 25 from 3-point range.

"Our calling card has been our defense," said coach Tommy Amaker, whose team has held opponents to 38.3 percent and 27.3 from long range. "I'm so proud of our guys for how they've been able to embrace that and believe in that."

Harvard has also been consistent offensively on the winning streak, shooting 47.4 percent and an Oklahoma-like 46.8 from 3-point range. That's up from 36.5 percent in its first eight games.

Starters Zena Edosomwan (15.0), Corey Johnson (14.7), Agunwa Okolie (12.3) and Evan Cummins (10.3) have all been above their season scoring averages on the winning streak.

The Crimson got off to a fast start with a 17-4 lead, and Amaker seems to know how to get his team ready for a tournament environment. They're 8-0 in in-season tournament games under Amaker, who's also had them in the NCAA Tournament the past four seasons.

"We were ready to go and certainly in a tournament atmosphere like this, where you've playing games on consecutive days, that's critical to get off to a great start and I think our defense has been able to help us with that and we've been very confident as we've been in this tournament thus far," Amaker said.

Harvard has lost its last four against ranked opponents, but three have been single-digit defeats. Oklahoma has won 15 straight against unranked foes.