NORMAN – The Oklahoma Sooners will get a brief reprieve from the grind of the Big 12 Conference slate.
Oklahoma will host the Mississippi State Bulldogs at the Chesapeake Energy Arena as a part of the Big 12-SEC challenge on Saturday.
Sooners Coach Lon Kruger said after practice on Thursday his team was looking forward to the break from Big 12 play, but that doesn’t mean there will be any drop in intensity.
“We’ll treat it like a Big 12 game,” Kruger said.
Kruger also said he was looking forward to the extra interest the Big 12-SEC Challenge draws.
“It’s great exposure because it falls on that weekend between the [NFL Conference] championships and the Super Bowl,” Kruger said. “Everyone is excited about it.”
Fresh off their near upset against the top ranked Baylor Bears on Monday night, Oklahoma will immediately be called upon to rebound at a higher level.
Senior forward Kristian Doolittle said his biggest takeaway from the Baylor game was if the Sooners had rebounded better in the first half, they would have won the game.
“They killed us on the glass in the first half. We did a better job in the second [half],” he said.
“We should have won.”
Kruger said his team is weary of the threat Mississippi State represents, especially on the glass.
“They’ve got statistically the best offensive rebounding team in the country,” he said. “Hopefully we can make progress from Monday night.”
Bulldog forward Reggie Perry could cause the biggest problem for Oklahoma on the boards. The 6’10” sophomore enters the game averaging almost 17 points and 10 rebounds a game for Mississippi State.
Sooner forward Brady Manek said handling Perry, as well as Mississippi State’s other talented big men, will be the key to winning on Saturday.
“They’re very athletic, they rebound well, and their bigs are really good,” Manek said. “That’ll be our biggest challenge, just the physicality of the game.”
Perry also enters the game on Saturday fresh off scoring a season-high 26 points against the Arkansas Razorbacks, including an efficient 14-of-15 showing from the free throw line.
Manek will also enter the game high on confidence for the Sooners however, as he is just two games removed from setting a career high in scoring, and he led all scorers in his last outing against Baylor.
Though the Sooners ultimately came up short against the Bears, Manek said pushing the top ranked team on the road can lift the team.
“Going in on a road game against the number one team and having a chance to win, it’ll bring [your confidence level] up for sure,” he said. “We just have to play to our game.”
“I think we’re talented enough to play with anybody.”
Tip-off from the Chesapeake Energy Arena is slated for 1 p.m. The game will be broadcast on ESPN2.