The start of Big 12 Conference play could not have been worse for Oklahoma. The Sooners were destroyed by No. 7 Missouri, 87-49, in a game that left forward Andrew Fitzgerald so disappointed with the outcome, he was embarrassed to look at the OU coaching staff.
Next up, Kansas.
The Sooners are looking to rebound from the upset loss when the No. 15 Jayhawks visit Lloyd Noble Center at 1 p.m. CT on Saturday. KU got their Big 12 schedule off to a good start with a 67-49 home victory over Kansas State.
Key to OU win: Attacking KU forward Thomas Robinson, the lone Big 12 player averaging a double-double (17.2 points, 12.3 rebounds), with Andrew Fitzgerald and Romero Osby on offense. If the Sooners can get Robinson into foul trouble, KU will have to count on its inexperienced depth, giving OU a potential advantage. Fitzgerald and Osby will need to be aggressive with the aim of getting 15-20 points apiece.
Key to Kansas win: Defense. The Jayhawks rank No. 12 nationally in opponent field goal percentage (36.9 percent) and are annually among the best defensive squads in the Big 12. OU has struggled to get good shots at times this season and the Jayhawks could take advantage of the Sooners lack of penetrating ball handlers.
Stat line that will tell the tale: OU field goal percentage. The Sooners will have to shoot extremely well from the outside or get easy shots through penetration or in transition. If KU forces OU to try to create open shots in one-on-one situations, the Jayhawks have the advantage.
Sooners X factor: Sam Grooms. The junior college transfer has proven to be the only Sooner who can consistently create a shot for himself or his teammates this season. He will need to do that on Saturday. If he struggles against KU’s defense, quality shots will be much harder to find.
Jayhawks X factor: Elijah Johnson. The incredibly athletic guard does a lot of things well and makes KU very hard to beat when he plays well. He’s averaging 9.7 points, 3.8 assists, 2.9 rebounds and 1.6 steals per game. A 40 percent shooter, Johnson could make KU impossible to beat if he scores efficiently on Saturday.