Oklahoma-Iowa St. Preview
A school-record 14-0 start by the No. 16 Cyclones seems a distant memory, while the No. 23 Sooners are surging in the Big 12 with a chance to climb in the national rankings.
Oklahoma seeks its fifth straight victory Saturday when it visits an Iowa State team that's simply trying to get back to .500 in the league.
The Cyclones (15-4, 3-4) made some noise with their run to open the season, a surge that ended with an 87-82 loss to the then-unranked Sooners (17-4, 6-2) on Jan. 11.
Iowa State has virtually crumbled since then, dropping three of its next four - including two matchups against Kansas. The team's lone win in that span came against then-No. 22 Kansas State last Saturday.
Oklahoma followed its upset of the Cyclones with a 72-66 loss at K-State on Jan. 14, but has gone on to win four straight, including solid victories at then-No. 12 Baylor on Jan. 18 and an 88-76 win over No. 8 Oklahoma State on Monday.
Another win over a ranked team will likely push the Sooners a bit higher in the AP poll. They sit alone in second place in the Big 12 behind the Jayhawks (7-0), while the Cyclones are in seventh.
One of the positives that remains for Iowa State is its 9-1 record at home. The Cyclones' only loss in Ames came Jan. 13 against Kansas, which held the nation's sixth-highest scoring team (84.6 points per game) to a season low-matching 70 points.
Still, the Cyclones can't afford to overlook the Sooners, who are a Big 12-best 7-2 away from home.
One of the keys to Oklahoma's success since the start of the conference schedule has been sophomore forward Ryan Spangler, who had 15 points and a career-high 17 rebounds Monday. He had 16 points and 15 rebounds against the Cyclones.
Spangler, in his first season at Oklahoma after transferring from Gonzaga, is also contributing to a defense that's allowed an average of 68.5 points during the win streak.
"Ryan's kind of been the cornerstone for our growth in the toughness area," coach Lon Kruger said. "I think we're getting tougher. I think we've made big strides in that area."
Freshman guard Jordan Woodard scored 17 of his 18 points in the second half against Oklahoma State and reserve Tyler Neal added a season-high 15.
"That's kind of been the trademark of this team all year long - different guys, different nights, stepping up and giving us great support," Kruger said of his squad, which has five players averaging double figures in scoring.
Iowa State is coming off a 92-81 loss at Kansas on Wednesday in which it allowed season highs in points and in both field-goal (51.6) and 3-point (45.5) percentage. The Cyclones were down 30-14 and rallied within one, but couldn't turn the corner.
"They came out on fire," coach Fred Hoiberg said of the Jayhawks. "They do such a good job of jumping on you. But you can't panic and we didn't. I give our guys credit for climbing back into the game and cutting that thing to one late."
Ejim had 21 points and six rebounds in the first meeting with Oklahoma, while Niang scored 14 points and Dustin Hogue added 13.
The Cyclones have won two straight at home against the Sooners, whose last win in Ames was an 82-76 overtime victory on Jan. 29, 2011.