Oklahoma-Iowa St. Preview
When Oklahoma beat Iowa State in the Big 12 opener, it was thought to be a preview of two of the conference's top contenders. The Sooners have held up their end of the bargain, but the Cyclones desperately seek a revenge win to remain in the hunt.
That chance will come when top-ranked Oklahoma visits No. 19 Iowa State on Monday night for a pivotal conference game for each side.
The last five matchups in this series have come while both teams were ranked, and Iowa State won three of the first four. Oklahoma, though, used an 87-83 victory on Jan. 2 as the launching pad for a hot conference start.
The Sooners (15-1, 4-1) followed with a 109-106 triple-overtime loss at then-No. 1 Kansas two days later, but they have won three straight and were the unanimous top-ranked team in Monday's AP Poll - the first time they've been No. 1 since the 1989-90 season.
Oklahoma earned that spot after Saturday's 70-68 win over No. 11 West Virginia, which beat Kansas earlier in the week to set up a four-way tie between those three teams and No. 22 Baylor at the top of the Big 12.
Khadeem Lattin, who missed a free throw that could have helped Oklahoma beat Kansas, tipped in a shot with one second left in the win over the Mountaineers.
"The leadership of this group, the senior group, Jordan (Woodard) and those guys know that whatever is today is OK," coach Lon Kruger said. "... but it's nothing in terms of what we have to keep doing in Big 12 play in terms of getting better to keep challenging the opposition that lies ahead.''
Iowa State (13-4, 2-3) was thought to be a challenger entering the conference season but lost three of its first four games before Saturday's 76-63 win at Kansas State.
The Cyclones held the Wildcats to 37.7 percent shooting, a good sign for a team allowing 74.3 points per game while opponents shoot 43 percent - both the worst marks in the Big 12.
Iowa State, though, still has to play Kansas and West Virginia twice each and could desperately use a win over the Sooners.
''I have learned a lot in my short time in this league, and we just have to continue to get better each day,'' coach Steve Prohm said. ''But to come here and win like this in double figures, it shows that we are not going to let people push us out and say that Iowa State is done this year.''
Remaining relevant starts with slowing down the conference's top scoring team. Oklahoma averages 86.3 points - slightly more than Iowa State's 85.2 - on 47.1 percent shooting. The Sooners lead the nation with a 45 percent clip from 3-point range, while Iowa State is last in the Big 12 by allowing opponents to shoot 34.7 percent from deep.
That number drops to 32.6 percent in Ames, where the Cyclones are 72-6 since Feb. 26, 2011, and had won nine straight before falling 94-89 to Baylor on Jan. 9.
Oklahoma made 11 3s on 29 attempts in the first matchup as Buddy Hield and Jordan Woodard = two of the nation's top two 3-point shooters - combined to make just 4 of 12.
Iowa State led for most of the second half thanks in large part to Georges Niang's 29 points. That's his high in league play, during which the senior forward is averaging 21.4 points and 6.6 rebounds.
Hield and Niang are the Big 12's top two scorers at 26 and 19.6 points per game, respectively.