Sooners seek redemption in Big 12 clash with Wildcats

Manhattan, KS ( - The highest-ranked team with seven defeats on the season, the 17th-ranked Oklahoma Sooners, aim for their sixth win in a row, as they tangle with the Kansas State Wildcats in Big 12 Conference play at Bramlage Coliseum.

The Sooners are enjoying their longest win streak of the season at the moment, a run that has come on the heels of back-to-back conference defeats against a couple of nationally-ranked foes (Kansas and Baylor). Earlier this week, the Sooners scored a season-high 94 points during a double-digit victory over 14th-ranked Iowa State (94-83) at home. The program has now logged a total of six wins against Top-25 opponents this season.

As for the Wildcats, they find themselves in the bottom third of the conference standings with a mark of 5-7, ahead of only Texas Tech and TCU which are a combined 3-20 in Big 12 action. On Wednesday night, KSU was pitted against West Virginia, the third straight Top-25 foe, and came away with a 76-72 loss on the road. The 72 points for K-State was the most in conference play this season, and the most in any game since a 73-53 win over Savannah State back on Dec. 14.

The defeat was the fifth straight and the sixth in the last seven games for the Wildcats, the lone win during that stretch being a 63-53 triumph over Oklahoma State on Jan. 24.

The series between these teams already numbers 200 games, with the Sooners clinging to a 105-95 advantage. However, Kansas State scored a key upset of OU in the first meeting of the campaign, a 66-63 overtime affair in Norman last month. That setback for the Sooners was the first of four in a stretch of five games during the month of January.

Entertaining the Cyclones at the Lloyd Noble Center, Oklahoma actually trailed by as many as 10 in the first half, but a late surge provided a 46-46 tie at the break and in the second half the Sooners simply ran away with the victory. TaShawn Thomas, one of five to score in double figures for OU, tallied 22 points, 11 rebounds, five assists and three blocked shots, while Ryan Spangler notched a double-double of his own with 14 points and a team-best 12 rebounds.

Also scoring in double figures for an Oklahoma squad that made good on 10- of-21 behind the 3-point line, were Isaiah Cousins with 19 points, Buddy Hield 17 and backup Frank Booker with 14 points on 4-of-6 shooting out on the perimeter.

Hield, who is shooting 40.2 percent from 3-point range in conference play, is responsible for 19.5 ppg in those outings, not to mention 5.9 rpg. Spangler picks up with 11.8 ppg and a team-best 7.7 rpg, not to mention 21 rejections. Cousins (11.4 ppg) and Thomas (11.3 ppg, 7.3 rpg) have made their mark as well, especially Cousins who has knocked down an impressive 51.1 percent of his long-range attempts.

Shooting 56.8 percent from the field would normally get the job done, but somehow the Wildcats failed to fully capitalize on their accuracy from the floor as they bowed to the Mountaineers at WVU Coliseum. Unfortunately, part of the problem was that the visitors made only 2-of-6 shots beyond the arc and 20-of-33 at the free-throw line during the close call. Nino Williams led four players in double figures with 22 points, followed by Justin Edwards and Nigel Johnson with 14 apiece. Thomas Gipson chipped in 10 points in 32 minutes of action.

Needing something good to happen before the season completely goes down hill, the Wildcats are hoping to get both Malek Harris and Marcus Foster back on the floor this weekend after both had disciplinary issues. While he has appeared in only nine of the team's 12 conference outings, Foster is still listed as the top scorer against the rest of the Big 12 with 14.0 ppg, ahead of both Williams (11.1 ppg) and Gipson (10.3 ppg) who are each pulling down 5.0 rpg to lead the program in that department.