MEN'S BB: Sooners, K-State Tip Off Big XII

Oklahoma hosts Kansas State at 5 p.m. Saturday in the Big XII opener for both schools. The game will feature three of the country's best freshmen in Oklahoma's Blake Griffin and K-State's Michael Beasley and Bill Walker.

By Michael Swisher Sooners Illustrated Oklahoma's Blake Griffin is considered among the best freshmen basketball players in college basketball.

Kansas State's Michael Beasley is quite possibly the very best.

The two McDonald's All-American teammates will square off against each other when Oklahoma (12-3) hosts Kansas State (10-4) at 5 p.m. Saturday at the Lloyd Noble Center in the Big XII opener for both schools.

Griffin, a 6-foot-10 power forward, leads the Sooners with 14.7 points and 8.8 rebounds a game. His numbers, however, pale in comparison to Beasley's.

The 6-foot-10 forward pours in 24.3 points, good for fifth in the country. He leads the nation with 13.3 boards a game and shoots 56 percent from the field. He has 13 double-doubles in Kansas State's 14 games. His season highs are 40 points against Winston-Salem and a Big II-record 24 rebounds in November against Sacramento State.

"This team (K-State) is very talented," OU coach Jeff Capel said, "especially when you consider they have a guy like Beasley who may be the best player in the country."

But, as Capel pointed out, Beasley's not the only talented freshman on his team.

"Bill Walker is an extremely talented guy," Capel said.

Walker, a 6-foot-6 forward, scores 15.3 points and grabs 6.9 rebounds an outing. He adds nearly two assists a game.

The Sooners follow up the home date with a Monday trip to unbeaten Kansas. It's an unenviable task for the Sooners, who have already tackled a tough non-conference schedule.

"Where we stand, I don't know," Capel said. "We're all 0-0 right now. Hopefully our non-conference schedule has prepared us for this.

"Hopefully (Saturday) we can have a good turnout and give them a good performance."

Notes: * Among the Wildcats' other starters is 6-foot-4 senior guard Clent Stewart, a product of Union High School in Tulsa. Stewart averages 8.0 points and 3.5 rebounds a game.

* Oklahoma is ranked 26th in this week's AP poll, the highest ranking for the Sooners since being 24th at the end of the 2005-06 season. The Sooners are ranked 31st in the ratings percentage index.

* OU has won five straight games, the longest in Capel's one-plus seasons here. The Sooners are averaging 74.6 points and have scored at least 80 points seven times this season. They scored 80-plus four times in 2006-07.

* Kansas State set an NCAA record for fewest points allowed in a half since the shot clock was introduced in 1986 on Monday in an 85-25 win over Savannah State. The Wildcats gave up just four points in the second half. Still, K-State ranks last in the Big XII in scoring defense (67.0 ppg).

* The Sooners have a 101-88 all-time lead in the series with Kansas State. That includes a 58-23 mark in Norman. Oklahoma has won eight of the last nine in the series.

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