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: 8 p.m.
Series: Oklahoma, 135-95
Neither Oklahoma State nor Texas showed any interest in Oklahoma All-American and player of the year candidate Buddy Hield when he was being recruited out of high school. He didn’t grow up in Oklahoma or Texas either, lessening the intensity of the rivalry ever so slightly.
This week presents a pair of rivalries that the Sooners have dominated in recent memory. At this point, everyone cares about them.
“I haven’t lost to them playing,” Hield said. “Don’t jinx us now. It’s a rivalry game. We take them more personally. All the hype to the games: They know everybody in Oklahoma and Texas is watching. It’s just a fun challenge. So, you just go out there and compete, and you never know what’s gonna happen, no matter if the team is ranked or not, so you can’t fall into traps.”
Oklahoma hasn’t lost to either Texas or Oklahoma State since 2013, when the Sooners dropped an overtime road game to both teams. Woodard wasn’t on campus, and Spangler was redshirting after transferring from Gonzaga.
Since then, Oklahoma has won six straight games against Oklahoma State, which hasn’t won in Norman since 2004 – 11 straight games. Texas has come close, but Oklahoma has won five straight, making it 11 straight victories against its two biggest rivals.
“We just want to win those games every time,” Woodard said. “I feel like those games are real important. Especially with me being from Oklahoma, I take it as a challenge to definitely come back with a win.”
Even this week, Hield was asking coach Lon Kruger whether or not freshman Oklahoma State point guard Juwan Evans was going to play this Wednesday. He wants another shot at Evans, who scored 42 points against Oklahoma in January – still Evans’ career-high.
But the first-year phenom, who has turned out to be one of the few bright spots in Oklahoma State’s season, won’t play in Bedlam Round 2 for this year. The Sooners have brought the star power to Bedlam, but it’s lacking sustenance because of the struggling Cowboys. Oklahoma State is on pace for its worst season under Travis Ford and arguably its worst season since before Eddie Sutton was coaching.
That doesn’t make a difference to Oklahoma.
“They almost beat us when we were at their place,” Woodard said. “We know what they are capable of. They’ve got a lot of good wins. They’re a sneaky team. That’s one of the scariest games you can play.”
The Cowboys have gone with a smaller lineup recently with Evans and Phil Forte still out with injuries. Oklahoma State went without a starting post player in its last game against Texas Tech.
Oklahoma has plenty to play for, while Oklahoma State, which already beat Kansas once this year, isn’t playing for much outside of pride. The Sooners have to come in with the same focus as any other game, and they should be able to do just that.
“It doesn't (change anything) from our side,” Kruger said. “Our guys, the local guys, they have a lot of anticipation for this game. It's a big ball game always regardless of standings or anything else. We're coming off a good effort, and our challenge is to start making that more of a habit and continue to exceed the previous starting point. That's our challenge for Wednesday, regardless of who we're playing. Being Bedlam adds to it.”
Lattin comes back
Twelve points, one block, 13 rebounds: That was Oklahoma forward Khadeem Lattin's line through the four games before Saturday’s win against West Virginia. He had nine points, six blocks and 13 rebounds – throw in three steals also – against the Mountaineers.
The formula for success was pretty simple.
“Having energy, staying focused and staying out of foul trouble are the things I know I need to do to help my team win,” Lattin said.
Lattin was a spark for Oklahoma during its early season run.
In the Sooners’ four combined regulation losses, Lattin has just four total blocks. He is averaging four blocks per game in Oklahoma’s Big 12 wins.
“Guys like the feeling that they had coming out of that ball game Saturday,” Kruger said. “Now, they've got a reference point that's fresh and new. Let's line up and do it again. That's the thing, you don't get any credit in the next one for what we did Saturday. We have to line up and play better on Wednesday.”