Kansas St.-Oklahoma Preview
Oklahoma is off to an impressive start in Big 12 play thanks to the best defense in the Lon Kruger era.
The 16th-ranked Sooners will be tasked Saturday night with slowing down Marcus Foster, whom Kansas State hopes has turned things around.
Oklahoma (11-3, 2-0) has won four straight, including back-to-back victories against ranked opponents in Baylor and Texas. Its 70-49 win Monday over the Longhorns marked its first on the road over a top 10 team since 1993.
Buddy Hield’s 13 points led five Sooners in double figures, and Oklahoma held Texas to 14 first-half points and 30.0 percent shooting for the game. Ryan Spangler and TaShawn Thomas had two blocks each.
"Ryan and (Thomas) do such a good job as big guys inside with awareness and working hard early," said Kruger, who is 5-5 against Kansas State, his alma mater. "Again, I thought our perimeter guys from the weak side did a good job trapping the post."
The Sooners have held teams to 35.6 percent shooting to rank among the national leaders and allow 58.9 points per game, by far their best marks since Kruger took over in 2011-12. Their previous best numbers under Kruger came in 2012-13 when they gave up 66.3 points per game on 41.8 percent shooting.
Oklahoma has posted an average scoring margin of plus-22.8 in going 7-0 at home and has won 26 of its last 28 there against unranked opponents.
Kansas State (8-7, 1-1) has had its worst start since it was 7-8 in 2001-02, though it ended a three-game slide Wednesday with a 58-53 home win over TCU.
Foster, who started every game as a freshman while averaging a team-high 15.5 points, was scoreless in 14 minutes while coming off the bench for the first time in his career in a 61-47 loss at Oklahoma State last Saturday and appeared to demonstrate negative body language.
He had been 1 for 9 over his last two games before his 23 points Wednesday were the most by a Kansas State reserve since Jamar Samuels had 27 in an 83-64 victory over Oklahoma State on March 11, 2010.
"It was kind of like, `I’m back.’ It was a good feeling," Foster said. "Going through such a slump like that, it can really hurt a player’s confidence."
The day after the win over TCU, coach Bruce Weber was non-committal on whether Foster would return to the starting lineup.
”If he comes back (Thursday) and Friday and plays his butt off, I’m all for it,” Weber said, ”but you know, this is about him not only now but in the future, too. I think he’ll respond well.”
The Wildcats had won three of four at Oklahoma before an 86-73 loss Feb. 22 snapped a three-game winning streak in the series. Foster scored 21 and Hield had 18. Kansas State won 72-66 at home Jan. 14 as Foster scored 18 and Spangler had a career-best 21 points.
The Wildcats have dropped 10 of 11 away from home dating to last season, including their last four against Top 25 teams. Kansas State has shot 36.8 percent in three road games this season while committing an average of 16.7 turnovers.