The Oklahoma Sooners have are looking to end a five-game losing streak, and they’ll try to do so against the Kansas Jayhawks in what is arguably the toughest environment in all of college basketball. Kansas has proven to be far from invincible at home , but are the Sooners good enough at the moment to take advantage of that? Signs certainly point to ‘no’ at this current juncture, but crazier things have happened.
Oklahoma (16-10, 6-8) at Kansas (21-6, 10-4): 8 p.m. CT, Allen Fieldhouse (16,300)
Commentary: Bob Wischusen, Dick Vitale and Holly Rowe
Live Stream: WatchESPN
Radio: Sooner Radio Network (KRXO 107.7 FM “The Franchise” in Oklahoma City; KTBZ 1430 AM in Tulsa)
Line: Kansas -8.5 (as of 9 a.m. CT)
Rewatch the greatest regular-season game in the history of college basketball:
- In the last meeting, Oklahoma came out on top (85-80 in Norman) with the help of efficient play from Trae Young, timely shooting from his teammates and Lon Kruger’s decision to hack Udoka Azubuike.
- Since that Jan. 23 contest, Oklahoma has won only one game while Kansas has gone 5-2. The Jayhawks are currently tied with Texas Tech atop the conference standings with records of 10-4.
- The Jayhawks are led offensively by senior point guard Devonte’ Graham, who is averaging 17.4 PPG while also dishing out 7.2 assists per contest. Kansas four other starters - Udoka Azubuike, Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk, Lagerald Vick and Malik Newman - all average double figures scoring in 2017-18.
- Center Udoka Azubuike is Kansas’ imposing paint presence, averaging 1.6 blocks per game and touting a field goal percentage of .769, leading the nation with the latter statistic.
- Allen Fieldhouse - Oklahoma’s struggles to get over the hump at Allen Fieldhouse are well-documented. OU hasn’t won in Lawrence since 1993 and have dropped 16 consecutive games at the historic venue, but the Sooners have come incredibly close to ending that streak on a number of occasions. OU nearly won the 1 vs. 2 matchup (or 1 vs. 1 if you go by the two polls) in 2016 behind Buddy Hield’s 46-point effort, but the Sooners fell short by a score of 109-106. Back in 2006, Kelvin Sampson’s final team fell to the Jayhawks by one point, 59-58, after giving up a 16-point second-half lead. Additionally, Sampson’s earlier teams also lost a number of close games in Lawrence.
- Three-point struggles - Oklahoma has be deficient in a number of areas as of late, but the three-point shooting is one of the more surprising ones. The Sooners have gone 8-30, 7-22, 6-27, 6-16, and 3-22 from three-point range during their five-game skid. For a team whose success often hinges on the ability to hit outside shots (many of which are open looks), this is certainly a concerning trend. National POY candidate Trae Young has been one of the primary culprits, but this team can beat a lot of people in spite of its flaws if he can somehow snap out of it and get hot.
- Defensive effort - The Sooners haven’t shown signs of life in many of the most critical moments of these losses. Oklahoma has been in many of these games until the end, but the inability to get defensive stops in crucial situations has been a major issue. The Sooners seem to either lack a sense of urgency of suffer mental breakdowns, both of which end up leading to uncontested looks. They’ve shown signs of life in certain instances but have not been able to sustain it in recent weeks.
If Oklahoma had defeated Texas or at least lost a close game, I would predict Oklahoma to hang tough for a good portion of this one. However, you have to wonder how this team is faring from a morale standpoint after Saturday’s uninspiring effort. I hope I’m wrong, but I think it’s going to be a long night in Lawrence.
Kansas 88, Oklahoma 70