Sooners Illustrated will present three things to watch before every men’s basketball game during the 2015-16 season.
No. 6 Kansas Jayhawks (20-4, 8-3) at No. 3 Oklahoma Sooners (20-3, 8-3)
TV/Radio: ESPN/107.7 FM
Time: 1:30 p.m.
Series: Kansas, 101-42
Buddy vs. Mason, Round 2
Over the past two games, All-American guard Buddy Hield has seen more than his share of tight man-to-man defense. Kansas State’s Wesley Iwundu and Texas’ Kendal Yancy both tried to slow him down with it. But Hield still went off for 50 points over the last two.
The idea of face-guarding Hield didn’t start this week. It started in Phog Allen Fieldhouse, where Kansas guard Frank Mason “locked down” Hield so well that Hield gave him specific credit for doing so. Hield still scored a career-high 46 points in the triple overtime loss.
“I’ve been seeing that all year,” said Hield, who is second in the country with 25.4 points per game. “Teams don’t want me to get off. If I was other teams, I wouldn’t want me to get off either. I just have to find ways. . . . I have to let the game come to me. I can’t try and go get it. I have to just let it come to me, but I have to stay aggressive.”
Hield again gave Mason credit Thursday, the same day that Kansas coach Bill Self joked that Mason couldn’t cover Hield all game again.
“I’m just up for the challenge,” Hield said.
That line in the sand – or the arc around the basket
Jordan Woodard was the talk of the season before this last week. He had jumped from shooting 25 percent from behind the 3-point arc to better than 50. The junior guard has caught some eyes this week for a different reason.
Woodard has just three points in the last two games combined and has hit just one shot. In no single game this season prior to this stretch has Woodard ever scored fewer than four points. He’s made just one shot in a game only once.
“I just have to keep shooting, just keep shooting game shots,” said Woodard, who added that he’s still confident and getting out of the slump requires practicing better.
Hield said Woodard is still in the gym after midnight on some occasions, but Oklahoma will need Woodard to snap out of his slump quickly.
It’s likely to be a 3-point barrage Saturday.
Woodard laughed that he’d be up for taking 15 3-pointers against Kansas, but in a match-up of the two of the top six 3-point shooting teams in the country, he might need to do that. In the first matchup, the two teams combined for 55 attempts from behind the arc. They combined to shoot just a shade under 50 percent.
“It makes it better when all three are shooting great,” Oklahoma coach Lon Kruger said of his veteran backcourt. “It makes it less good if one of them is not. That’s not unusual. Seldom do you have five guys all playing great on the same night. . . . It would be better if everyone was playing great on the same night. It doesn’t happen very often.”
Protecting home court
Oklahoma is unbeaten at Lloyd Noble center in Big 12 Conference play. Kansas hasn’t lost at home to a league opponent this year, either. It’s no surprise that both teams are tied atop the conference. West Virginia has lost once at home but has stayed in a three-way tie with the best road record in the conference – one of only two teams better than .500 on the road.
“We know we have to protect this court, and that it enables us to stay in the race,” Hield said. “. . . That's our objective, and that's the only way we can win the league is win games on the road because we protect home court.”
The plan is simple, but against the toughest team Oklahoma has face at home, it’s just not that easy. It’s also not just another game.
“It’s something more,” Hield said. “We’re playing for something. Kansas, all respect to them, they’ve won this league for like 11 years straight. We’ve got to try to find ways to take it from them. This is a statement game. . . . We’ve got to go out there and make a statement. This is a good team. We’re trying to dethrone them from the championship run. So we’re going to go out there and compete and just have fun out there.”