Full-court press: Kansas

Big Monday gives Sooners big stage to show major changes

Sooners Illustrated will present three things to watch before every men’s basketball game during the 2014-15 season.

No. 18 Oklahoma (12-5, 3-2) at No. 9 Kansas (14-3, 3-1)

When: 8:05 p.m. CST

TV/Radio: ESPN/107.7 FM(OKC); 1430 AM (Tulsa); Sirius 138; XM 200

Series: Kansas, 141-65

Practice like they play

Before Oklahoma’s victory against Oklahoma State, forward TaShawn Thomas said that the Sooners had changed in practice.

It was an oddly specific thing to pick out after Oklahoma had lost back-to-back games, including a home defeat in overtime at the hands of Kansas State. He said the team knew that they weren’t playing like themselves and promised that things were about to change. Based on the result of the latest game in the Bedlam series, Thomas was right.

Practices have changed.

The way Oklahoma coach Lon Kruger uses practices is different, too.

“When it gets this time of year, there’s a balance between staying fresh and getting healthy for games and working hard and getting better,” Kruger said. “Sometimes you have a short turnaround. Like (Sunday), you don’t have much room for work-work. It’s more mental. Last week, we had a Tuesday game and we had a couple days to practice a little harder. I thought our guys did that.” Oklahoma had a short turnaround with just one day of practice before a Big Monday matchup with Kansas.

Kruger liked the way his team practiced Sunday as they worked on a few specific plays that Kansas will run pointing out all of the specific attack points multiple times before final running through the play.

Striking first

Forward Ryan Spangler talked before the Sooners’ victory against Oklahoma State about taking the mentality of hitting opponents first. The Sooners did that against the Cowboys.

Against Kansas, they’ll also have to hit the Jayhawks first – but in a slightly different way.

Iowa State, which knocked off the Jayhawks on Saturday, was able to take advantage of easy baskets in transition and keyed on points off turnovers.

The Sooners will hope to replicate that performance but have the distinct advantage of being on the road, where Iowa State was at home.

“It’s easier at home than it is on the road,” Kruger said. “You’d like to do that. In Lawrence, it’s kind of one of those deals where you want to get yours in transition but not give them theirs. That’s why the value of taking care of the ball is so important – good decisions in transition.”

Woodard stepping up

Oklahoma’s point guard had been suffering through a bit of up-and-down play in his second season at the Sooners’ offensive quarterback.

He had a few turnover-filled games, a few bad shooting nights and a few games when he finished with less than three assists.

Saturday night against Oklahoma State wasn’t one of those games.

“I thought it was his best game (Saturday),” Kruger said. “Isaiah didn’t have a good one, so Jordan was pressed into a few more minutes. I thought that he was more aggressive. He made a couple jumpers. He finished a couple times. I thought it was one of his better ones. We need that.”

Woodard played 33 minutes, second on the team, and went 5-for-7 from the field. He committed three turnovers for Oklahoma, which committed 17 as a team.

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