Full-court press: Iowa State

Sooners battle Cyclones for second place in Big 12 Conference

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

No. 14 Iowa State (17-5, 7-3) vs No. 17 Oklahoma (16-7, 7-4)

When: 8 p.m. CST

TV/Radio: ESPN/107.7 FM(OKC); 1430 AM (Tulsa); Sirius 91, XM 91

Series: Oklahoma, 112-82

Thomas ready to go against Iowa State

After taking an arm to the eye against TCU midway through the second half, Oklahoma forward TaShawn Thomas spent the rest of the game watching from the bench – albeit through a blurred right eye.

By the end of the game, Thomas could see fine, and by practice on Sunday, it was all but assured that Thomas hadn’t suffered a concussion.

“I was just a little nervous, but after the game I knew it wasn't too serious because I knew my vision was back to normal,” he said. “I really didn't have a bad headache or anything. I just felt like I got hit in my eye, like normal if I got poked in my eye. I kind of felt better after the game was over.”

Khadeem Lattin worked with the starting five in Thomas’ place Sunday and would likely get the start should Thomas not be clear. Although, everything seems to point toward Thomas being at 100 percent.

“It’s all good,” Oklahoma coach Lon Kruger said. “He got poked in the eye. Just kind of precautionary, we’re giving him another day. But it looks good to go.”

Slowing down Cyclones’ balance

There isn’t a team with better scoring depth in the Big 12 than Iowa State. The Cyclones are the only team with five players in double figures – all five starters.

Cyclones’ forward Georges Niang has been the focal point with 15.2 points per game. Still, it’s a balanced attack that is averaging 79.9 points per game – 12th in the country. Iowa State is also first in the nation in assists per game (17.77 per game).

“That’s where it starts,” Kruger said of stopping Niang. “It certainly doesn’t end there because they’ve got so many weapons. . . . You go down the list quite a ways. But it still starts with Niang. And yet you can’t cheat so much because where are so many good players around him. That’s why they’re a top-12 team in the country. That’s a challenge.”

Thomas and Ryan Spangler will likely draw the matchup with Niang throughout the entire game. Thomas said at practice Sunday that it’ll be just like guarding each other in practice – only with a better jump shot than his own.

“It's going to be a big challenge for us because he can score in various ways,” Thomas said. “He can shoot, he can get to the basket, he can dribble, kind of similar to us.”

Point guard Monte Morris has replaced DeAndre Kane as best he can and is averaging a team-high 33 minutes and 5.6 assists per game. The Cyclones have the best offense in the Big 12, leading the conference in points scored, scoring margin and field goal percentage.

Sooners leaning on its defense

In the Sooners’ two games against the Cyclones last season, the two teams combined for an average of 163 combined points – basically an 82-81 score.

This year should be a little different, and it’s Oklahoma’s fault.

Oklahoma has one of the best field goal defense in the nation and the best in the Big 12. During its current four-game winning steal, Oklahoma is allowing just a 31.6-percent shooting mark. The Sooners are currently on pace to post the best field goal percentage defense since the 1959-60 season.

Only once in the last 53 years have the Sooners even held an opponent under 40 percent.

“We’re not going to have a perfect offensive night, night-in and night-out,” Oklahoma point guard Jordan Woodard said. “So, it’s nice to know we can just stop some people on the defensive end.”

That renewed confidence will help Oklahoma on Monday as it plays for outright second place in the Big 12, less than three weeks after ranking seventh in the standings.

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