Oklahoma hosts No. 18 Kansas State in pivotal Big 12 bout

The jockeying for position in the Big 12 Conference continues on Saturday evening, as the 18th-ranked Kansas State Wildcats pay a visit to the Oklahoma Sooners.

Kansas State has won 16 of its first 20 games, and is tied with Oklahoma and Baylor for second place in the Big 12 standings as each team has a 5-2 league ledger. Kansas (7-0) is two games up heading into the weekend. The Wildcats recently stopped a two-game skid by whipping visiting Texas on Wednesday night, 82-57. The win improved K-State's home record to 12-1, and the team is hoping to add to its road record tonight, as it comes to Norman sporting a 3-1 mark in true road games, and a 4-3 record in all games played outside of Manhattan this season.

Oklahoma has quietly put together a solid campaign of its own by going 14-5 overall, which includes a 7-1 record at home. The Sooners won at Baylor on Wednesday night, 74-71, and they have alternated wins and losses over their last four games. This bout marks the first of three in the next four that OU will play in front of the hometown faithful, including a showdown with first- place Kansas next Saturday.

Oklahoma head coach Lon Kruger is a 1975 graduate of Kansas State, and he is 4-3 all-time against his alma mater.

Oklahoma owns a 104-92 lead in the all-time series with Kansas State, and the Sooners have won 11 of the last 16 meetings despite dropping a 69-60 decision to the Wildcats in Manhattan two weeks ago.

Kansas State is the Big 12's best defensive team, yielding a mere 58.2 ppg, and the team allows its opponents just 29.1 percent success on 3-point tries. The Wildcats rank first in turnover margin (+2.8) as well as assist-to- turnover ratio (1.36), due in large part to being one of only two teams in the conference to average more than 16 assists per outing. Offensively, KSU puts up 69.2 ppg in hitting 43.3 percent of its field goal attempts, which includes a 34.7 percent showing from beyond the arc, and the team has just one double- digit scorer on the roster, as Rodney McGruder nets 14.9 ppg while also grabbing 5.0 rpg. Angel Rodriguez is averaging 9.4 ppg, but his real worth is getting his teammates involved in the action, which he does by handing out 5.1 apg. Thomas Gipson came off the bench to score a season-high 17 points, and he was joined in double figures by fellow reserve Omari Lawrence who tallied 12 points while pulling down a team-high six rebounds. Rodriguez was the only starter to eclipse the 10-point mark, turning in 11 to go with eight assists. With the game getting out of hand (KSU led 38-19 at halftime), McGruder saw his time on the court limited to 15 minutes, and he scored just seven points. The Wildcats who outscored the Longhorns in the paint (42-26), off turnovers (33-8) and in bench points (45-17), committed just six turnovers while forcing three times as many from their hosts.

Oklahoma comes into this contest averaging 68.5 ppg, hitting that mark by shooting 43.1 percent from the floor and 73.8 percent at the foul line. The team's defensive stand yields 63.1 ppg, with foes connecting on a lackluster 40.4 percent of their total shots, which includes a 30.2 percent effort from 3-point range. The Sooners boast three double-digit scorers in the form of Romero Osby (14.2 ppg, 6.5 rpg), Steven Pledger (11.4 ppg, 3.1 rpg) and Amath M'Baye (10.8 ppg, 5.7 rpg), although Buddy Hield (9.4 ppg, 4.7 rpg) is close to joining the ranks. M'Baye and Pledger both hit for 20 points, and Osby tacked on 11 to go with eight boards, each effort proving crucial in Oklahoma's recent win at Baylor. The Sooners drained 52.7 percent of their field goal attempts, despite going just 5-of-14 from beyond the arc, and they played solid defense in permitting the Bears to convert only 37.3 percent of their total shots, which included a woeful 6-of-27 performance from 3-point distance. OU won the game even though it was outscored in the paint (42-20), off turnovers (20-13), in second-chance points (24-6), and lost the rebounding battle (47-34).