While Kansas State got the best of Oklahoma at home two weeks ago, coach Bruce Weber’s team could have its hands full with the series shifting to Norman.
The No. 18 Wildcats try to pick up a rare road win over the Sooners in a Big 12 showdown Saturday.
Third in the conference with 14.9 points per game, Rodney McGruder scored 20 and Will Spradling added 15 in a 69-60 win over Oklahoma on Jan. 19. Kansas State (16-4, 5-2) was outrebounded 39-25 but committed just eight turnovers - half as many as the Sooners (14-5, 5-2).
“That’s entirely because of Kansas State,” said Oklahoma coach Lon Kruger, a former player and coach for the Wildcats. “I thought their defense was outstanding.”
While Kansas State has won five of eight in this series, road victories haven’t been easy to come by. The Sooners have taken 20 of 26 from the Wildcats on their own court, including an 82-73 upset over then-No. 18 Kansas State last season.
“We have a tough game there on Saturday,” said Weber, whose team is tied with Oklahoma and Baylor for second place in the conference. “We need to see if we can do some damage on the road.”
After beating the Sooners, Kansas State dropped back-to-back games to then-No. 3 Kansas and Iowa State before getting back on track with Wednesday’s 83-57 rout of Texas. McGruder was limited to seven points after getting into early foul trouble and Spradling, who broke his nose, had just five, but sophomore Thomas Gipson stepped up to score a season-high 17 off the bench. Spradling is expected to play Saturday.
“I think we were all kind of disappointed after last week,” Weber said. “You are not going to have very many Big 12 games that you can feel that comfortable.”
The Wildcats matched a season low with six turnovers Wednesday and are averaging just 8.8 over their last five games. Much of that success is due to point guard Angel Rodriguez, who has recorded 34 assists and four turnovers over that stretch.
The Puerto Rico native is averaging 9.4 points on 34.0 percent shooting, but he ranks fourth in the league with 5.1 assists per game. He scored 12 and dished out a career-high nine assists versus Oklahoma last month.
“He’s very under control, letting things happen, reading and taking what the defense gives him,” Weber said. “He’s supposed to start our pressure on defense, and he can create havoc on guards, and be the guy who creates on offense. Now if we can get him to shoot the ball, he’d have it all together.”
The Sooners are coming off an impressive result of their own, winning 74-71 at Baylor on Wednesday. Steven Pledger and Amath M’Baye scored 20 points apiece for Oklahoma, which shot 52.7 percent - its highest mark in conference play.
“Any time you can win on the road you feel really good about it,” Kruger said.
The Sooners, 7-1 in Norman this season, are looking to win their first four conference home games for the first time since 2009-10.
However, Oklahoma has dropped six straight and 21 of 23 against Top 25 opponents, including three this season by an average of 15.6 points.
While senior Romero Osby averages team highs of 14.2 points and 6.5 rebounds, M’Baye has provided a boost with 14.8 points per game over the last four - 4.0 more than his season mark.