Oklahoma basketball: Sooner Magic meets Hilton Magic

Oklahoma basketball hasn’t experienced much Sooner Magic at Hilton Coliseum for almost a decade, and that’s where the Sooners will be on Saturday to go up against Iowa State.

In Ames, Iowa, its all about Hilton Magic, at least that’s what Iowa State students and fans attribute to why the Cyclones are so difficult to knock off on their home hardwood.

Over the last seven seasons, Iowa State has won 119 games, a .647 winning percentage, but the Cyclones have been lethal against Oklahoma on their home floor. The Sooners have lost their last seven visits to Hilton Coliseum. They lost by just three points a year ago, but the six times before that OU’s average losing margin was 10 points.

Iowa State is seven up and seven down through 14 games this season, including 0-2 in the Big 12. The Sooners are 11-3 and have opened Big 12 play with back-to-back wins over Kansas State at home and on the road at Texas earlier this week.

On paper, this would appear to be a year that Oklahoma could escape the Hilton wrath and come away with a win, but there were other years we could have said that as well. In 2015-16, for example, the season that the Sooners, led by consensus All-American Buddy Hield, went to the Final Four.

Iowa State lost a heartbreaker by two points in overtime last weekend at TCU and was blown out at home on Tuesday by probable Big 12 champion Kansas, so the Cyclones are hungry to get into the Big 12 win column.

Keys for an Iowa State win

Tyrese Haliburton is the best shooter on the Iowa State team, both percentage-wise and in the scoring column. The sophomore guard averages 16.7 points per game. He shoots 51 percent from the field and is 41 percent from three-point range. The Cyclones need a strong game from their scoring leader.

Rasir Bolton averages 14.6 a game, and the Cyclones have three other starters who average nearly 10 points. George Conditt has been a strong contributor off the bench. He is a 65-percent shooter and averages 10 points. If the supporting cast comes through to take some of the scoring pressure off of Haliburton, the Cyclones will be tough to beat, especially if they get off to an early lead.

The Cyclones shoot well as a team (46 percent), but they aren’t that strong defensively, allowing opponents to shoot 44 percent and score 71 points a game, worst in the Big 12. They will need to tighten this up against the Sooners.

Iowa State leads the Big 12 with a plus-5.00 turnover margin, which indicates that they like to create offense off of their defense. Only, Oklahoma turns the ball over the least of any team in the Big 12, averaging just 10.5 turnovers a game.

Keys for an Oklahoma win

First of all, the Sooners must shoot well and they need their Big Three — Kristian Doolittle, Austin Reaves and Brady Manek — to provide the bulk of the scoring because they haven’t been getting much help from the other players in the rotation. OU needs one or more of the supporting cast to step up offensively. This has been a problem area for most of the season.

Doolittle’s 17.3 scoring average is second in the Big 12, and Austin Reaves leads all Big 12 newcomers with a 16.1 average.

Oklahoma is 10-0 when it shoots a higher field-goal percentage than its opponent.

Freshman guard De’Vion Harmon provided a big spark at big moments late in the game at Texas. OU needs a more consistent scoring contribution from him.

Offensive rebounding has hurt Oklahoma. Opponents have followed up missed field goal attempts with second-chance points created by offensive rebounds. Iowa State shoots too well to be given multiple scoring opportunities in the same possession.

It goes without saying that the Sooners cannot afford to start slow — which has been the case far too often this season — and fall too far behind early. Oklahoma has been a second-half team all season, outscoring opponents by 83 points over the final 20 minutes. Nevertheless, you don’t want to have to count on second-half comebacks to win games, particularly when playing away from home.

Bottom line

The Sooners played perhaps their most complete game of the season in the win at Texas. The big question is: Can they keep the string going in another very tough place to play, at Iowa State? The one thing for certain: It will take a strong game, offensively and defensively, by Oklahoma against a team that isn’t as bad as their record might indicate — and especially not at home.

Oklahoma by 4

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