With the Big 12 regular season race heating up, No. 5 Kansas travels to No. 12 Oklahoma in a game with major conference implications
Trae Young and the now No. 12 Sooners had a week worth forgetting after road losses to Kansas State and in-state rival Oklahoma State. They fell from tied at the top of the Big 12 to tied for fourth, and two-games back of No. 5 Kansas–who makes the trip south to Norman, Oklahoma tonight.
Many questioned if the Jayhawks would continue their streak of Big 12 Championships this season, a streak that started when many of the players in tonight’s game were just getting into their early years of elementary school. Head coach Bill Self has led Kansas to 13-straight Big 12 regular season championships, and can get a comfortable lead for his 14th straight with a win tonight.
Oklahoma, on the other hand, can spoil everything Kansas has had going so far early in Big 12 play. Self’s team sits firmly in first place, and can get a three-game lead on the field with a win tonight.
If the Sooners extend their 12-game home winning streak to 13 tonight? Well, the race for the Big 12 regular season championship becomes a tad bit crazier, including a door being opened once again for Oklahoma.
WHEN: 6:00 PM CST
WHERE: Norman, Oklahoma
LISTEN: 107.7 The Franchise OKC; KTBZ 1430 AM in Tulsa
The Sooners suffered road losses at Kansas State and Oklahoma State last week, ending the early season momentum they built up. Oklahoma will look to the comfort of being home to getting back on track as they have won 12-straight inside the Lloyd Noble Center. Kansas has not won three straight in Norman since Lon Kruger became head coach at Oklahoma, either*.
Trae Young is more comfortable at home opposed to being on the road, too. The freshman leads the country in scoring at 30.5 points per game, but only shoots 37.8% from the field–34.3% from three–on the road. He is a 46.1% shooter inside the Lloyd Noble Center, including 44.0% from three.
Oklahoma will face one of the more well-respected big men in college basketball tonight in Udoka Azubuike. The 7-footer has been a hassle to deal with in the interior, averaging 14.5 points and 7.7 rebounds per game, including 1.6 blocks a game.
Junior center Jamuni McNeace has been a big part of Oklahoma’s success defensively, and went down with an apparent ankle injury halfway through the second half against Oklahoma State on Saturday. Lon Kruger spoke about his health after practice yesterday,
“Expect him to play. Don’t know exactly–full-speed, (he) hasn’t done much of, obviously, the last couple of days in practice–but getting better, getting a lot better. We’ll see how it is game time.”
McNeace would be a huge loss if he will not be at 100% tonight. Expect true freshman Hannes Pöllä to see playing time if McNeace can’t go. Pöllä has seen limited minutes this season.
After Saturday’s career-high 48 points, Trae Young received mixed reviews from those who loved his second half and those who were not much of a fan of the 39 shot attempts. He has taken college basketball by storm, and has started to become the true face of college basketball with ESPN starting off plenty of segments with cut-ups of analysts breaking his game down, a conversation with his dad in an empty Lloyd Noble Center, or an essential “Trae Young” category on the bottom-line for stat updates. For Young, handling the outside noise can be done one way.
“Just like I’ve always done…just prove how I play,” He said after practice on Monday. “Let my game do the talking the next game I go out, and try to prove it that way. That’s all I can do. Can’t let it do too much to me. Effect my game, just got to play the next game, and try to prove something the next game.”
ANOTHER TOP 10 OPPONENT
No. 5 Kansas will be Oklahoma’s fifth AP top 10 opponent this season at the time the game was played. The Sooners are 3-1 against AP top 10 opponents, with wins on the road at No. 3 Wichita State, at No. 10 TCU, and at home against No. 8 Texas Tech. Their loss came at the hands of then No. 6 West Virginia in Morgantown.
*Kansas has won three straight at the Lloyd Noble Center once. Bill Self won in 2008, and then in 2010 and 2011.