Sooners Illustrated will present three things to watch before every men’s basketball game during the 2015-16 season.
TV/Radio: ESPNU/107.7 FM
Time: 5 p.m.
Series: Oklahoma, 106-96
Finally cracking the Sunshine State
It was always a mission of Buddy Hield to knock of Kansas – either at Phog Allen Fieldhouse or for the Big 12 Conference title. He probably had no idea entering his final collegiate trip up to the state of Kansas that he still wouldn’t have won a game in the state where he played most of his high school career.
“It’s really important that we really get focused as a group and go up there and execute,” Hield said. “It’s gonna be loud. Everybody wants to play us now. We have a big target on our back.
“We have to go up there, play as hard as we can, eliminate easy shots for them on transition buckets and don’t let their crowd give them momentum.”
Hield said that a few of his friends from high school will be at the game, but it’s important to not let a match-up against an underwhelming team become a loss – like it did twice the year before. Kansas State was the only team that swept Oklahoma last year, and it likely cost the Sooners a chance at the Big 12 Conference regular season championship.
“We’ve just got to go up there and play the way we play,” Oklahoma forward Ryan Spangler said. “If we go up there and play the way we should, we shouldn’t have a problem.”
The way Oklahoma should play is different than the way it played last year. They are winning close games as well, having won four games by four or fewer points – losing only once in triple overtime against Kansas.
The Wildcat Toughness
Oklahoma guard Isaiah Cousins might have said it best.
“I guess they’ve got something against us because every time, they play a little harder against us,” he said when asked about Kansas State.
It’s not just Oklahoma.
Kansas State brings a specific brand of toughness to its game that gives more than just the Sooners trouble. Kansas State is fourth in the Big 12 Conference in scoring defense and rebounding defense. The Wildcats are first in 3-point defense,
“I think they play everyone tough,” Kruger said. “They guard you. They’ll foul you. They’re physical. They’ve had good teams. They’re tough on us, like everyone else.”
A buzzing television set, even with no viewers, is a constant in the Hield-Cousins apartment. Every night, Hield parks himself in front for some college basketball – for a little extra film time.
“You never know what team is gonna come play in the NCAA Tournament,” Hield said. “. . . I’ll see who’s out there and who might make the NCAA Tournament.”
Hield said he enjoys watching players like Maryland’s Melo Trimble, LSU’s Ben Simmons, Providence’s Kris Dunn, Duke’s Grayson Allen and Iowa’s Jared Uthoff. He scouts how teams defend the superstars and tracks who is playing hot and who’s cold.
Spangler watches games for the same reason: To find the playmakers for other teams. He saw that Kansas State’s Wesley Iwundu is becoming a much bigger part of the Wildcats’ offense.
“What I noticed last night is (Iwundu)’s go the ball a lot in his hands more than he has the past two or three years, and he’s trying to make plays now.”
Iwundu is averaging 12.4 points, twice as many as last year, and 4.9 rebounds. Both are career highs.