Sooners Illustrated will present three things to watch before every men’s basketball game during the 2015-16 season.
Kansas State Wildcats (10-4, 0-2) at No. 2 Oklahoma Sooners (12-1, 1-1)
TV/Radio: ESPNEWS/107.7 FM
Time: 3:30 p.m.
Series: Kansas State, 58-79.
No chance to sleep on the ’Cats
It wasn’t just a triple overtime game that left the Oklahoma Sooners sluggish on their first day back at practice Tuesday. A uphill grinding win against Iowa State two days earlier kept Oklahoma practicing at a little bit less than ideal Thursday.
But with the way the Wildcats swept Oklahoma last season, likely taking away a shot at the Big 12 title, will keep the Sooners focused.
“I think we kind of overlooked them last year, and they out-toughed us, both games,” said Oklahoma forward Ryan Spangler, who is consistently the toughness leader for the Sooners. “We’ll be ready to come and fight and make sure they rough us up.”
Kansas State was the only team that swept Oklahoma last season and the only team that beat the Sooners at the Lloyd Noble Center. Half of Saturday will be protecting home court, and the other half is about a little bit of vengeance – while holding serve in the race for the Big 12 regular season title.
“They were very physical and very aggressive,” Oklahoma guard Buddy Hield said. “They bullied us on our home court. They bullied us on their court. . . . We just have to be more locked in and focused and ready for the grind.”
Kansas State has lost its first two conference games by a combined seven points and plays a much different style than Oklahoma’s first two conference games. Iowa State and Kansas were both willing to trade punches with the Sooners. The Wildcats will try to slow it down, giving Oklahoma another thing to think about.
“They dictated to us a little bit last year,” Oklahoma coach Lon Kruger said. “Obviously, they’re a different team this year. We have to bounce back and play better.”
Cousins breaking his slump
After scoring in double figures in eight of the first nine games and shooting better than 40 percent in all but one game, Oklahoma point guard Isaiah Cousins has fallen into a bit of a funk. In the past four games, Cousins has shot 13-for-50 (26 percent) and less than 20 percent in two contests. Nobody is worried about the senior guard.
“He’ll bounce out of it,” Kruger said. “He’s the first one to not feel good about the way he played Monday. He’s had a couple good days of practice. He’s competitive. He’ll bounce out of it.”
The worry with the ultra-competitive Cousins is that he’ll try to do too much.
That’s the good and the bad of the situation, Kruger said. Cousins has always been the first player in the gym and the last to leave during his time at Oklahoma, but his roommate said that Cousins has been getting in the gym even more over the last week or so.
“He’s been in the gym much longer than he had been,” Hield said. “He’s always in the gym. He’s competitive. . . . Isaiah is going to come around. Like coach says, the satisfaction is in the end. We came here to do one thing and we’re going to get our job done.”
Crowd becoming a factor
The Lloyd Noble Center is finally becoming what Kruger wanted when he took almost five years ago. Oklahoma had the Boom Squad last year in the student section, but now, the entire arena is filling up.
It’s making a difference.
“Fans are a part of it and affect the outcome, Kruger said. ”They energize the players. It’s especially impressive that the students aren’t here and it’s sellouts. The students were doing a great job. When they come back in a couple weeks, it will be even better.”
“It’s going to be fun,” Hield said. “I feed off the crowd’s energy, and this team feeds off the crowd’s energy. Having all the fans here and supporting us, it’s going to be a lot of fun.”