The Oklahoma Sooners (13-7, 3-5) travel to Lawrence tomorrow to play the Jayhawks (17-4, 7-1). Kansas is coming off of its first conference loss of the season after a 72-64 loss at Iowa State on Saturday. Bill Self and Co. will look to bounce back in Allen Fieldhouse in what some are calling a “trap game” leading up to the College Gameday match-up at Missouri.
Oklahoma is coming off one of its biggest victories of the season — a 63-60 victory at Kansas State. Lon Kruger’s Sooners are playing better basketball of late, led by junior guard, Steven Pledger (17.8 PPG). Forward Romero Osby has also picked up his play, posting a 16 point, 11 rebound game last week against Baylor’s front line.
The Jayhawks have won eight straight games against the Sooners and have not lost in Allen Fieldhouse to the crimson and cream since 1993. Oklahoma will seek to revenge a loss in Norman earlier this year, where the Jayhawks needed a career high 28 points from Travis Releford to pull away in the second half for a 72-61 victory.
Matchup of the game:
Steven Pledger scored 30 points in Manhattan last game. He is Oklahoma’s best perimeter threat as well, posting a .436 3-point shooting percentage. I have a feeling all three of our guards will have a shot to guard him tomorrow, and I think that will be the biggest defensive matchup of the game.
Keys to the game for Kansas:
- Rebound the basketball. Over the last few games, the Jayhawks have played soft. This couldn’t be more evident than against Iowa State, where Iowa State out-rebounded KU by a margin of 36-23. In Norman, the Jayhawks tied the Sooners with 34 boards. It will be a welcome sight to see this tilt back into KU’s favor.
- Force feed Thomas the ball. Robinson had one of his worst games of the season on Saturday in Iowa. He caught the ball numerous times in good position but failed to turn those catches into good shots. He had five turnovers and never looked comfortable. The Jayhawk guards will need to continue to feed him the ball if this team is going to go anywhere this year. If that means force feeding him, then that’s what needs to happen.
- Let the defense lead to the offense. Kansas played one of its best stretches of basketball this year in that second half in Norman. They played loose and free and took advantage of every OU mistake. I want to see that same energy from the start and hopefully see it maintained throughout.
Keys to the game for Oklahoma:
- Play physical ball. The Sooners hit the Wildcats in the mouth last game and it took Frank Martin’s team a while to respond to the physical play. It wasn’t the prettiest game (63-60), but it was the way Kruger and OU needed to play to win that game. They’ll need to do the same against KU.
- Continue to take high percentage shots. One reason the Sooners won in Manhattan is they shot 4-9 from the three-point line while defending K-State into shooting 3-17 from three. OU will need to make a high percentage of its open looks while also pestering Kansas the same way it did the Wildcats.
- Crowd the lane. Kansas has not been able to knock down many perimeter shots of late, so the Sooners will be wise to cheat toward the lane. Forcing Thomas against the baseline or into a trap has been a good strategy against smaller teams. OU will need to pound the paint defensively and hope the KU cold streak continues.
TV: ESPNU, 8:00 CST
Line: KU -16.5; O/U 138.5
Prediction: I think KU wins handedly. Final score: 83-68
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