OU appears to be climbing out of the abyss that was its seven-game losing streak, as the Sooners have now won two consecutive Big 12 games, the last one occurring on the road against the No. 7 team in the country. Oklahoma now looks to win its third straight against an average Iowa State team in Norman. Can Lon Kruger keep his team on the right track?
When and Where
OU and ISU tip off at 1:00 PM CT in Norman, OK, with the game being nationally televised on ESPN2. You can stream the game on Watch ESPN if your television isn't readily available, and stop by the game thread to let us know what you are thinking during the game (comment section below).
Entering this contest, The Sooners are eighth in the Big 12, with Iowa State sitting ahead of them at seventh. Iowa State has three fewer overall losses than Oklahoma, but they have yet to beat a ranked opponent this season after losses t0 No. 17 Gonzaga, No. 2 Kansas and No. 2 Baylor. Oklahoma managed to get a top-10 victory on the road a few days ago against the No. 7 West Virginia Mountaineers.
Iowa State lost by a combined total of eight points versus three ranked teams, and four of their six losses were by less than five points. They are currently on a two-game losing streak, dropping games to TCU and KU. Conversely, the Sooners are on a two-game winning streak, but lost by an average by 19 points in their three losses against ranked opponents. Out of their nine losses, five of those losses were by six points or fewer.
Something's gotta give
In the last two games, Oklahoma has shot 58 free throws and has made 45. Iowa State is currently third in the country in opponent free throw attempts per game (12.8) and first in the country in opponent free throws made per game (8.5). Down the stretch of both of these back-to-back OU wins, the free throw line has been their friend. Their aggressiveness attacking the basket has been rewarded with free throws in pivotal moments. Also, Oklahoma dominated in the paint in their last game, putting up 48 points.
The OU defense has made offenses vulnerable recently. They were able to force WVU into more TOs and grabbed seven steals. The Sooners are averaging 7.8 steals per game and are 34th in the country in that regard. On the other hand, ISU is currently third in the country in assist/turnover ratio. Disrupting the Iowa State offense will be instrumental in solidifying Oklahoma's third straight win.
During the catastrophic implosion of the Sooners’ season, Kruger was not able to find a consistent leader. However, during the final few games, Kameron McGusty and Rashard Odomes started to contribute effectively. In fact, in the past five games, McGusty has averaged 14.2 points, with Odomes contributing averages of 13 points and five rebounds. However, Woodard is the answer Kruger was searching for. Since his return, Woodard's averages are 18 points, 5.3 rebounds and 4.3 assists. These guys have established some chemistry as they look to turn the season around.
Iowa State has a trio of their own to counter the Sooners' attack. Monte Morris, Nazareth Mitrou-Long and Deonte Burton have taken over the reins and are putting up some impressive numbers. Morris is averaging 15.9 points, 5.1 rebounds and 5.9 assists per game. Mitrou-Long is not too far behind, averaging 15.8 points, 4.6 rebounds and 2.9 assists per game. Burton is a mismatch waiting to happen, putting up 12.0 points, 6.8 rebounds, 1.5 assists, 1.2 steals and 1.2 blocks per game. Matt Thomas is their deep-ball threat, scoring 11 points and grabbing 4.5 rebounds per game. OU will need to give the Cyclones the same sort of attention and respect that they did the Mountaineers.
Leading up to the past two games, I have gone against the Sooners. Those both pleasantly backfired on me. I genuinely think OU will win this one, considering they look like a new team since Woodard's return. This one will be a close one, as I believe these teams are very evenly matched.
Oklahoma 84, Iowa State 80