NORMAN — As wins go, Oklahoma’s 86-73 victory over Kansas State on Saturday should’ve been one to enjoy. It secured a 20-win season for the second straight year and guaranteed no worse than a .500 record in Big 12 Conference play.
But that wasn’t the case. What’s next took precedent of what had just happened early Saturday evening.
The Sooners (20-7, 9-5 Big 12) face No. 8 at Kansas (21-6, 12-2) at 8 p.m. today at Allen Fieldhouse in Lawrence, Kan. The quick turnaround for the ESPN “Big Monday” game took precedent.
“Kansas, I think, clearly, is one of the best teams in the country. Allen Fieldhouse is a great place to play and a great atmosphere,” OU coach Lon Kruger said. “Our guys have a ton of respect for Kansas, but athletes look forward to those types of challenges. We will have a good practice tomorrow and be excited to go up there and take on Kansas.”
The stakes are straightforward: the Jayhawks secure at least a share of the Big 12 regular-season title with a win. They are three games clear of the Sooners, Iowa State and Texas with four games remaining in the conference slate.
For OU, tonight’s game is the classic situation where it has much more to gain than lose. OU is in great shape for the NCAA tournament. If the bracket were released today, most have OU projected as a No. 6 seed. A win at Kansas — where it hasn’t won since 1993 — would elevate that seed.
To have any chance of winning, the Sooners can’t be the same team that lost to Kansas, 90-83, at Lloyd Noble Center on Jan. 8.
That game turned on two critical statistics: OU didn’t come close to effectively guarding the Jayhawks. They shot 54.7 percent. They also dominated the glass, outrebounding the Sooners 36 to 23.
Keeping that game within seven strictly came down to OU’s offensive prowess and little else.