Lately, it’s been a rough go for Lon Kruger’s Oklahoma squad.
Since their home victory over TCU on January 13th, the Sooners had dropped all but two of their games — including a particularly bad loss to Kansas State in Manhattan. Now, just a month later, the the theme went from “will the Sooners nab a top four seed?’ to “will the Sooners make the tournament?”
Now, with an 86-77 victory over the Kansas State Wildcats, it seems as if the Sooners are just a hair’s length from being in the Big Dance. With a victory over Baylor on Tuesday night, the Sooners are almost assured an invitation.
Arguably the two biggest issues facing the Sooners had been poor shooting and non-existent defense. Shooting, which hadn’t often been issue before their recent slump, seemed to melt away as easily as the ice that covered the metro earlier this week.
Trae Young in particular was on, nailing six of his 10 attempts and generally playing with enjoyment and enthusiasm, something that had been seemingly lacking from the NBA prospect’s game during his slump. Young also added seven assists and five boards to his totals.
On the defensive end, the Sooners appeared to be locked in, although Kansas States 19% from the three-point line would indicate that it was probably an off night for the Wildcats.
Jamuni McNeace’s effort on defense was especially noted, with a pair of well-time, impressive blocks, and another that was ruled a goaltend that easily could have gone uncalled. The Sooners have lacked an imposing interior presence, so McNeace’s positive play since joining the starting lineup is encouraging.
Christian James was OU’s second-leading scorer with 15 points. James also added a trio of steals. McNeace scored 10 points and grabbed nine boards.
For Kansas State, Barry Brown led the way with 28 points. Forward Dean Wade scored 15 points, grabbed 11 boards, tallied three assists, and added four steals.
The Sooners improve to 17-11, while the Wildcats fall to 20-9. Next up for OU: they travel to Waco to play the Baylor Bears. Tip-off is at 8 P.M. Tuesday night.