Oklahoma Basketball Hoping to Make It Three Consecutive Big 12 Wins

Jan 10, 2017; Norman, OK, USA; Oklahoma Sooners guard Kameron McGusty (20) drives to the basket in front of Kansas Jayhawks forward Landen Lucas (33) during the second half at Lloyd Noble Center. Mandatory Credit: Mark D. Smith-USA TODAY Sports
Jan 10, 2017; Norman, OK, USA; Oklahoma Sooners guard Kameron McGusty (20) drives to the basket in front of Kansas Jayhawks forward Landen Lucas (33) during the second half at Lloyd Noble Center. Mandatory Credit: Mark D. Smith-USA TODAY Sports /

Oklahoma basketball is back in action on Saturday on the men’s side, hosting Iowa State and hoping to keep the momentum rolling in quest of a third consecutive conference win.

NCAA Basketball: Oklahoma at West Virginia
NCAA Basketball: Oklahoma at West Virginia /

The Sooners (8-9, 2-4) are fresh off of stunning upset win on the road over seventh-ranked West Virginia. Oklahoma was a 16-point underdog going into the game with the Mountaineers, and at one point, with under nine minutes remaining in the contest, trailed by 15.

That’s when senior leader Jordan Woodard took control and led his teammates on an 18-3 run that knotted the game at 69. The four-year starter then scored the game-tying basket to extend the game, and then did one better with a game-winning layup with just over two seconds left in the overtime session to secure the improbable victory.

Instead of Oklahoma being forced into costly errors on the offensive end, it was West Virginia, the nation’s leader in forcing turnovers, that did the worst job protecting the basketball. The Sooners, who had been averaging 14 turnovers per game, committed just 12 against West Virginia’s in-your-face defensive pressure while the Mountaineers were forced into 13 miscues with the ball.

The Sooners also stole the ball one more time than West Virginia (7 to 6), which came into the Oklahoma game leading the nation, averaging nearly 13 thefts per game.

OU head coach Lon Kruger is hoping his team can retain the momentum it has built over the past week, recording its first two conference wins of the season and climbing back to within one game of .500 for the season.

Iowa State comes to Norman over the weekend sporting an 11-5 record and a 3-2 mark in conference play. It will be a bit unusual to see these two teams go to battle without the Cyclones’ Georges Niang and OU’s Buddy Hield, two of the country’s top players over the past several years, on the floor.

The momentum from the upset win over West Virginia ‘is going to be huge for us going into Saturday (vs. Iowa State).” –Jordan Woodard, OU senior guard

Saturday’s contest marks the 201st meeting between OU and Iowa State. The Sooners lead the all-time series 115-85 and are 63-23 when these two longtime conference foes play at Oklahoma. A year ago, with Niang and Hield putting up big numbers and providing most of the game highlights, the two teams split the two games in the regular season (with both holding serve at home). The Sooners defeated the Cyclones in the quarterfinal round of the postseason Big 12 Tournament.

Iowa State has not one in Norman since the 2011-12 season. Unlike OU, the Cyclones have dropped their past two games. Four of Iowa State’s five losses on the season have been to teams ranked in the top 25 (Kansas, Baylor, Gonzaga and Cincinnati).

Three Storylines for this game:

Continue to Shoot the Ball well and Limit Mistakes

In their back-to-back wins over Texas Tech and West Virginia, the Sooners shot the ball very well and minimized mistakes in handling the ball. Iowa State has plenty of scoring talent as evidenced by its 81-point scoring average. The Cyclones also don’t beat themselves by committing costly turnovers. They average just under 10 turnovers per game, which is the best in the Big 12 and fourth nationally. To beat Iowa State, OU is going to have to take good shots and play strong defense, which includes shutting off second-chance points.

Make Sure Jordan Woodard Touches the Ball on Every Possession

Jordan Woodard is averaging 23 points in his last two games and has been the second-half catalyst to pull the Sooners over the top. He needs to contribute his scoring average or better if Oklahoma is going to generate enough offense over 40 minutes to win the game.

Continue to Play a Full 40 Minutes, Regardless of What the Score Is

Four of the Oklahoma losses during the Sooners’ seven-game losing streak were by five points or less, and they have held a second-half lead in seven of their nine losses on the season. They need to play hard and smart for a full 40 minutes and not fold up the tent over the final four-to-eight minutes. Oklahoma showed it has what it takes to finish out games when it came from 15 points down late in the West Virginia game to tie the game and send it into an extra session.

The Sooners trailed throughout most of the overtime session but found a way to pull it out when Jordan Woodard scored a layup to tie the game with time running down, and on the next OU possession scored again on a layup to put Oklahoma ahead for good. That needs to serve as the example the rest of the season of what they are capable of and never giving up when they are behind.

Game prediction: I’m betting that OU gets it done at home and for a third straight game against a Big 12 opponent. Oklahoma 76, Iowa State 70.