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Sooners, Cyclones exceeding expectations despite inexperience

Feb. 9—Oklahoma and Iowa State faced similar situations heading into the 2023-24 season.

Both were coming off big seasons. The Sooners were the Big 12 regular season co-champions for the first time since 2009 and the Cyclones won the Big 12 Tournament for the first time since 2001.

But both programs saw generational talents graduate and had just a few key contributors from the season before.

Still, the two teams that will face off inside Hilton Coliseum on Saturday won't look very similar.

Despite their inexperience, both sides have exceeded expectations this season. The Sooners lead the Big 12 with a 10-1 record and the Cyclones are 7-4 and in fifth despite dropping four of their last five.

That stretch came right on the heels of an eight-game winning streak that included wins over Baylor, West Virginia, Kansas and Oklahoma State.

But while the Sooners' recent turnaround can be credited to their improvement on the defensive end, the Cyclones have leaned on their offense.

They're in the top five in the Big 12 since the start of conference play in scoring offense, field goal percentage, 3-point percentage, free throw percentage and offensive rebounding. They're also in the bottom half of the conference in most key defensive stats.

The Sooners have scored more than 72 points twice during their six-game winning streak.

Seniors Emily Ryan and Hannah Belanger have helped give Iowa State some stability this season, but a breakout freshman campaign from Audi Crooks has been a huge boost.

The 6-3 center is fifth in the conference averaging 17.9 points per game. She leads all Division I freshmen in field goal percentage (59%).

The Cyclones have five freshmen that see significant playing time.

Looking to snap losing streak

The Sooners lost both games against Iowa State last season and have a particularly rough time playing in Ames. They haven't won on the road against Iowa State since 2017.

With a win, the Sooners would improve their winning streak to seven games, which would be the second-longest under head coach Jennie Baranczyk.

Tarik Masri is the sports editor for The Transcript covering OU athletics and area sports. You can reach him by emailing tarik@normantranscript.com