Oklahoma basketball: Sooners look to stop bleeding with Bedlam win

KANSAS CITY, MO - MARCH 07: Cameron McGriff #12 of the Oklahoma State Cowboys scores as Kristian Doolittle #21 of the Oklahoma Sooners defends during the first round of the Big 12 Basketball Tournament at the Sprint Center on March 7, 2018 in Kansas City, Missouri. (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)
KANSAS CITY, MO - MARCH 07: Cameron McGriff #12 of the Oklahoma State Cowboys scores as Kristian Doolittle #21 of the Oklahoma Sooners defends during the first round of the Big 12 Basketball Tournament at the Sprint Center on March 7, 2018 in Kansas City, Missouri. (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images) /

After going up against the nation’s No. 1 and No. 3 teams in a three-day span and coming up short in both, men’s Oklahoma basketball now heads into Bedlam and Part II of its annual hoops series with in-state rival Oklahoma State.

The Sooners (16-10, 6-7) won the earlier game between the two rivals in Norman, 82-69. That victory improved OU’s overall record against Oklahoma State to 140-99. The 239 games in this rivalry series, which began in 1908 with the Sooners winning the first 11 games, is the most against any OU opponent on the hardwood.

While Oklahoma has dominated the games played in Norman (87-27), that has not been the case in Stillwater, where the Cowboys are 64-46 against the visiting Sooners..

Oklahoma has won the last three Bedlam basketball games, but is just 4-6 in its last 10 games at Gallagher-Iba Arena in Stillwater.

Oklahoma State enters 2020 Bedlam Part II with a 13-13 overall record, but is just 3-10 in the highly competitive Big 12. The Cowboys began the season going 9-0, including wins over Syracuse and Ole Miss and the Preseason NIT championship.

After defeating Mississippi for the NIT championship back in late November, OSU went on an eight-game slide in which the Cowboys lost seven of the eight games, and the opening of Big 12 play was the exact opposite how the season had begun. The Cowboys lost their first eight league games before snapping the string with a home win over TCU on Feb. 4.

Since then, Oklahoma State has split four games, with wins over Texas Tech and Kansas State while losing to Baylor and West Virginia.

What to watch for from Oklahoma State

Like Oklahoma, Oklahoma State has three starters who average in double figures in scoring. The difference being that the three OU starters average at least 14 points a game, while OSU’s leading scorers, Isaac Likekele and Lindy Waters III, top out at 11.1.

Cameron McGriff has wielded the hot hand lately for the Cowboys. He had 19 in the loss at West Virginia earlier this week. The 6-foot, 7-inch senior has been OSU most consistent scorer. He has hit double figures in each of the Cowboys’ last seven games, with most of those points coming in close in the paint. Over that stretch, McGriff has averaged 13.3 points, 7.7 rebounds and has shot 46 percent from the floor.

Oklahoma State has made the second fewest three-point shot in the Big 12, but when they do go down, it’s usually Thomas Dziagwa or Waters on the scoring end. Dziagwa shoots 41 percent from three-point range and Waters makes good on 32 percent of his three-balls. Dziagwa had 15 points in the last meeting with Oklahoma, all 15 from three-point field goals.

The Cowboys are a fairly good rebounding team, fourth best in the Big 12 in both offensive and defensive rebounding.

OSU is a better team that its record indicates, as evidenced by its nine straight wins to begin the season. Playing before the home crowd, they are a tough out. This could be the beginning of a good stretch of games for the Cowboys. Of their five remaining regular-season games, three of which are at home, only one (at Kansas on Monday) has a record above .500.

What Oklahoma has to do to win

First and foremost, the Sooners have to make shot and not go three or four minutes without scoring. Because OU has not been a good offensive rebounding team this season, the Sooners rarely get a second chance on a missed field goal. That’s why shooting percentage and scoring consistency are paramount if Oklahoma is going to win in Stillwater on Saturday.

OU has scorers — it’s is the only Big 12 team with at least three players averaging at least 14 points a game — but rarely do all three hit their average in the same game.

Senior Kristian Doolittle has been the main man lately, averaging 23.0 points in his last four games. Junior Brady Manek has had two games this season with at least 30 points and is averaging 15.3 points per game. Where he is most dangerous is behind the three-point arc. Manek is shooting 41 percent from deep and has the second-most made three-pointers in the conference.

Austin Reaves also is capable of getting on a scoring roll. He is more of a three-point threat, but is also dangerous heading to the basket on dribble drives. Reaves averages 13.6 points per contest and is also one of the best free-throw shooters in the conference.

Manek scored 30 and Reaves added 21 in OU’s 82-69 victory over Oklahoma State on Feb. 1. If they can get that kind of production from those two, plus a double-digit game from Doolittle, the Sooners will take care of business in Stillwater.

Oklahoma needs a stronger contribution from its bench players. Sooner reserves scored 18 points in the loss at Kansas, but contributed just seven points in the loss to No. 1 Baylor on Tuesday night.

The Sooners commit the fewest turnovers in the Big 12 and they don’t get whistled for many fouls, which keeps opponents off of the free-throw line. Those two areas will be key factors on Saturday, especially if the Sooners have a tough shooting game.

Bottom line

On paper, Oklahoma should win this game (the Sooners rank 38th in the latest Kenpom rankings; OSU is No. 69), but this is Bedlam, where rankings and past and present records mean very little. The Sooners are a better team than their in-state rivals and need to win this game to keep from hurting their NCAA Tournament chances. But they must come to play and prove it on Saturday.

Oklahoma 75, Oklahoma State 69