No. 17 Oklahoma goes to Iowa State trying to end skid

AMES, Iowa — Trae Young played a different role in Monday’s loss to West Virginia.

Young, Oklahoma’s freshman who is leading the nation in scoring and assists, played mostly off the point in that game.

Don’t expect to see that look too much moving forward, beginning Saturday when No. 17 Oklahoma travels to Iowa State, but it will continue to be something that Oklahoma coach Lon Kruger uses at times.

“I’m going to be off the ball a little bit more, but I think it’s a good thing because you can’t just focus on me dribbling it down the court,” Young said. “I don’t expect to be off the ball that much though.”

Oklahoma enters Saturday’s game desperately needing a road win.

After having much success away from home early in the season, including consecutive road wins at then-No. 3 Wichita State and then-undefeated TCU in December, the Sooners have dropped five consecutive road games.

Now a team that has risen as high as No. 4 in the poll has dropped five of its last seven games.

Brady Manek has been part of Oklahoma’s road struggles. The freshman forward is shooting nearly 60 percent from behind the 3-point line at Lloyd Noble Center but less than 25 percent in road and neutral environments.

Oklahoma also hasn’t gotten much production out of sophomore Kameron McGusty, who averaged nearly 11 points per game as a freshman.

After a six-game stretch in December and early January in which he averaged 14.3 points, McGusty has averaged only 3.3 in the last nine. He’s shooting only 13 percent from behind the arc in those games.

Both players’ confidence at taking shots has taken a hit recently, leaving Kruger to search out ways to get the pair back on track.

“You’re always thinking about those things,” Kruger said. “When shots aren’t going in, confidence can be affected.”

Iowa State has lost four of its last five but does have a home win over West Virginia during that stretch. The Cyclones come in at 12-11 overall and 3-8 in Big 12 play, trying to avoid becoming the first Big 12 team to fall to .500 since the opening weeks of the season.

The Cyclones are expected to be without starting point guard Nick Weiler-Babb for the fourth consecutive game.

Weiler-Babb, who was averaging 11.6 points, 7.1 rebounds and a team-best 7.0 assists per game, has been dealing with tendinitis in his left knee for several months, but the pain intensified, necessitating a shutdown.

Without Weiler-Babb, Iowa State has used senior Donovan Jackson and freshman Lindell Wigginton in that role, with not much success.

“There was a lot of times there were breakdowns where we were just reckless,” Cyclones coach Steve Prohm said in the aftermath of Wednesday’s loss at Texas Tech. “I’m trying to get a call in. We’ve got to communicate that one through five.”

Wigginton’s scoring hasn’t taken much of a hit — he has averaged 16.3 points per game since Weiler-Babb was shut down — but he has had to create his offense himself in large part.