While games against Iowa State haven’t always been the Sooners’ personal highest scoring affairs, the combined total of the two games was 327 points – second only to the Kansas series, which had the benefit of 15 extra minutes of play but yielded 0.3 fewer points per minute than the Iowa State series. Kansas State was the only other Big 12 series with the Sooners that produced more than 300 combined points.
In fewer words, Hield is pretty accurate. But one thing could change those high-scoring affairs.
“Our defense has improved a lot the last five games,” Hield said. ‘We’re going to go out there and guard. Last time in Ames, we gave up a ton of lay-ups. We watched it on film. We have to be ready for the challenge and just go out there and guard them and compete hard when we can. We have to have fun doing that and just play for each other and expect to win.”
Over the last five games, Oklahoma (24-6) has allowed 65 points per game. Before that stretch, the Sooners fewer than 65 points per game only once in conference play and only three times since the start of December. So, he’s right again.
Playing Iowa State again is a little bit different, though.
The Cyclones have the best offense in the Big 12 and the worst scoring defense. Third-seeded Oklahoma and Iowa State are in the top four in the conference in both shooting percentage and 3-point percentage. But where Iowa State ranks as one of the worst field goal defenses in the Big 12, Oklahoma is one of the best.
Oklahoma and sixth-seeded Iowa State (21-10) have split the regular season series in each of the last four seasons. In fact, Oklahoma and Iowa State have split the regular season series since 2010.
“We've had good games with Iowa State going back for awhile I guess,” Oklahoma coach Lon Kruger said. “It's going to be tough. They're very talented, very skilled. They'll challenge you with their mismatches, and we're similar teams in that way a little bit. . . . We know that that's a terrific challenge, but we knew it was going to be tough regardless because that's the nature of the Big 12 and certainly we've got a tough one with Iowa State.”
This year started early for these two conference rivals. Oklahoma was coming off an unbeaten non-conference schedule and set for its Big 12 season opener.
Isaiah Cousins missed his first eight shots, and Oklahoma went just 3-for-16 from behind the arc in the first half. Deonte Burton, who went on to be named the Big 12 Newcomer of the Year, had a bit of a coming out party with his 19 points and deceptive set shot.
Iowa State led much of the game, but Kruger praised Oklahoma after the game for fighting through. Just 17 combined turnovers, Iowa State shot over 51 percent for the game and the two teams produced the first of two memorable games.
Iowa State had a chance late when Monte Morris missed what Cyclones’ coach Steve Prohm called, a “wide-open three.” And it was. It was about as good a look as Iowa State could have gotten or the winning basket.
The second showdown pitted No.1 Oklahoma against the Cyclones, who had lost three of five. No matter: It was time for another classic – and an eventual court storming. The two teams went back and forth, ignited by a common offensive style that allows both to get in – and stay in – an offensive rhythm. Both teams don’t have a problem getting into a shootout and there’s a mutual respect between the two teams, which is probably born out of a mutual desire to catch Kansas.
There were 18 ties or lead changes on Big Monday in mid-January. And don’t forget about Dante Buford’s natural 40-foot jump shot as the shot clock expired.
In Ames, it came down to the final 20 seconds, when Morris hit a pull-up jumper to give the Cyclones the lead. Iowa State hit its free throws, and Cousins picked up a technical foul with three seconds to go by reaching over the base line. The Cyclones had only the second victory in program history against a No. 1 team, the first since 1957.
But the bigger question is which team can find Kansas City magic. Because no matter what type of game these two teams play at 8 p.m. Thursday at the Sprint Center, it’s win or wait for next week.
“Tournament play is when you play your best, I believe, and you show everybody what you’re about,” Hield said. “In tournament play you’ve got to win games. You’ve gotta play good no matter what. You’ve gotta stay confident in yourself and trust your teammates and make plays for each other. Stay poised. Don’t get too high.”