Finally, the No. 9 Oklahoma Sooners return to the hardwood.
OU travels Saturday to Ames to take on Iowa State, where success has been hard to find.through the years.
The Sooners (13-5 overall, 8-4 Big 12) meet last-place Iowa State (2-15 overall, 0-12 Big 12) at Hilton Coliseum. Oklahoma hasn’t won in Ames since 2011, a losing streak of nine straight.
Tipoff is 5 p.m. and the outcome is critical to OU’s postseason outlook. The Sooners are widely projected as a 3-seed in the NCAA Tournament, but that could change with late-season stumbles.
Lon Kruger’s squad will just be happy to get a game in after moving their Texas contest three different times during the past week.
When the heart of the country was blanketed with snow, making roads troublesome and causing prompting power shortages throughout Oklahoma and Texas, the Red River Rivalry originally slated for Tuesday evening was first pushed back to Wednesday, then again moved to Thursday before finally being postponed indefinitely.
“It’s been a crazy week, it’s been a very long week,” head coach Lon Kruger said in a video press conference on Thursday. “For the players and coaches, everyone is like, you know, you’re ready and then slow down, you’re ready then slow down. … It’s been different."
Kruger thinks the players are more prepared to deal with the hectic schedule than ever.
“They’ve had this type of experience all year long,” he said. “Whatever we have to do in the last couple of weeks here, the players will be fine with it. They’ll just do it.”
Turning their attention to the Cyclones, the Sooners will meet an inferior opponent on paper, but an Iowa State team that pushed OU two weeks ago in Lloyd Noble Center before falling 79-72. Throughout their upset bid in Norman, the Cyclones’ sharpshooters dazzled from deep, sinking 16-of-31 from 3-point range in a losing effort.
“Defense has to be better,” Kruger said. “We’ve got to play with greater urgency in getting to the 3-point shooter, which is something, for the most part for the last six or seven games, we’ve done a really good job of. We didn’t that game.”
For the season, the Cyclones are knocking down just 32.6 percent of their 3s.
In OU’s double-overtime win at West Virginia, senior guard Alondes Williams got his first taste of action since returning from an absence due to COVID-19.
Only logging six minutes of action, Kruger said Williams should be in line for more run after a good week of practice.
“(Williams) never did really have too many symptoms from the COVID,” Kruger said. “I thought he played really well at West Virginia given it was only his first game back, and we’ll get him in there more, earlier, more in Ames on Saturday.”
On the season, Williams is averaging 7.5 points per game on 47.2 percent shooting, adding 2.7 rebounds and 2.0 assists per game.
Other than the obvious goal of picking up the win, the Sooners will look to get back into the rhythm they found themselves before having games against Baylor and Texas postponed.
“The key is to keep practicing hard, keep doing what you need to do in practice every day to get better,” Kruger said. “Our guys have done a really good job, especially the last couple weeks.
“Given a full week in preparation for West Virginia, a really good week of practice there.”
The senior-laden squad has taken it upon themselves to maintain a high level of play in practice.
“The players have taken ownership and the understanding of what they need to do to get better,” Kruger said. “The players saying it, it’s a lot more powerful than if the coaches are trying to get them to do it.”
Saturday’s matchup will be broadcast on ESPN2, and is the second leg of OU’s three-game conference road trip.