Oklahoma basketball: Sooners limp home to host Iowa State

NORMAN, OK - MARCH 2: Oklahoma Sooners guard Rashard Odomes
NORMAN, OK - MARCH 2: Oklahoma Sooners guard Rashard Odomes /

After getting off on the wrong foot at West Virginia to begin February, Oklahoma basketball returns home hoping to right a listing ship against Iowa State, arguably the most complete team in the Big 12.

The Sooners (15-7, 3-6) have lost four of their last five games against Big 12 opponents and are drawing dangerously close to playing themselves out of the NCAA Tournament. Oklahoma definitely needs a win to regain its confidence. The problem is, the upcoming schedule does not set up favorably for the crimson and cream.

Texas Tech follows Iowa State for a Saturday tipoff at Lloyd Noble Center, and then its back on the road for back-to-back games at TCU and Baylor. I don’t need to remind you that Baylor stormed into Norman last Monday and leveled the Sooners by a 30-point margin.

OU followed up the Baylor demolition derby a week ago with another horrendous performance on Saturday against West Virginia. The eight-point final deficit (79-71) wasn’t indicative of how poorly the Sooners collectively performed.

West Virginia was a very winnable game for these Sooners, who have ostensibly lost their way along with any of the momentum they fed off of during an impressive run through the nonconference portion of the schedule. Instead the way they played on Saturday was as cold and dreary as the weather outside of the WVU Coliseum.

For the second week in a row, the Sooners have a quick turnaround from the weekend and a Monday home game, this time against the team that probably has the best chance of unseating the 14-time defending Big 12 champion Kansas Jayhawks.

Iowa State (17-5, 6-3), ranked 20th this past week in both the Associated Press and Coaches polls, currently sits in third place in the Big 12 standings, a half game back of Kansas State and Baylor, and is tied with Texas Tech for the most overall wins. No Big 12 team, other than perhaps Kansas State, is playing better right now as the teams head into the second half of the rugged round-robin conference schedule.

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The Cyclones lead the Big 12 in scoring, averaging almost 80 points a game, and in scoring margin, outscoring their opponents by an average of13.6 points a game.

Iowa State may be the most well-rounded team in the Big 12. The Cyclones not only lead the Big 12 in both field goal and free-throw percentage, but also play solid defense. Their quick hands and aggressiveness No. 1 in the Big 12 in turnover ratio: +3.2) often lead to easy breakaway baskets and open threes on the other end. Through Saturday’s games, Iowa State had made more three-point shots than any team in the conference.

The Cyclones have five players averaging 10 or more points a game, led by Marial Shayok, a graduate transfer from Virginia, averaging 19.2. Four ISU players rank in the top 20 in Big 12 scoring. Freshman Tyrese Haliburton and senior Nick Weiler-Babb both rank in the top-10 in the conference in three-point shooting, both over 40 percent for the season.

Oklahoma owns a 116-87 record in the all-time series with Iowa State and is 65-23 against the Cyclones in Norman.

Christian James continues to lead the Sooners in scoring (16.0 per game, fifth best in the Big 12), but has struggled from the field in OU’s last two games. Oklahoma needs their top scorer to have a big game against the Cyclones, along with Brady Manek, who is averaging 11.4 per game.

The Sooners rank second in the Big 12 in rebounding, but they did not live up to that standing in their losses to Baylor and West Virginia. OU is 12-1 when it outrebounds its opponent. On Saturday in the loss at West Virginia, the Sooners allowed the Mountaineers to pull down 18 offensive rebounds that led to 27 second-chance points. They cannot allow that to happen if they hope to stay in the game with an excellent shooting Iowa State team.

The early line on Monday night’s game is 1.5 points in favor of the Cyclones, which I believe is grossly underrated and should go up before tip-off Monday night.

Oklahoma is going to have to come to play and make a 180-degree turnaround in their team performance if it hopes to stay in the game, let alone pull off an improbable upset.

A competitive hardwood performance from the Sooners would be nice for a change, especially before a national television audience (the game will be broadcast at 8 p.m. CT on ESPN2).

The pick: Iowa State 79, Oklahoma 70