By John Shinn
The Norman Transcript
NORMAN — The Big 12 Conference has turned into a race for second place. Kansas has wrapped up at least a share of the regular season title and will claim it outright with a win over Oklahoma State on Saturday or with a win over Texas Tech and West Virginia next week.
The Sooners (20-8, 9-6 Big 12) are tied for fourth with Kansas State, but their meeting with No. 24 Texas (21-7, 10-5) at 3 p.m. Saturday at Lloyd Noble Center will have a huge impact on how the Big 12 race finishes and the seeding for the conference tournament.
Heading into Saturday, Iowa State and Texas are tied for second. If OU were to beat Texas on Saturday and win its final two games against West Virginia and TCU, it would head to Kansas City, Mo., as no worse than the fourth seed. A win over Texas would give it the tiebreaker against it. The Sooners were swept by Kansas and split with Iowa State and Kansas State.
However, OU coach Lon Kruger would not look that far ahead on Thursday.
“It’s so jumbled right now. We’re getting into the later stages of conference, and the seeding starts taking shape a little more clearly and the resumes everyone is trying to build for at-large opportunities (for the NCAA tournament).” he said, “But still as we’ve done 15 times up until this point, all you can do is focus on the next ball game. Our guys have done a really good job of that and Texas presents a big challenge.”
Neal and Clark will be honored Saturday: OU will honor seniors Tyler Neal and Cameron Clark prior to Saturday’s game.
The game is not the home finale. OU will host West Virginia at 8 p.m. Wednesday. OU coach Lon Kruger has always held the ceremony in conjunction with the final weekend home game because it is easier for the players’ families to attend.
Neal and Bennett named to Academic All-Big 12 team: Neal and forward D.J. Bennett were each named to the 2014 Academic All-Big 12 Team this week.
The honor is the third for Neal, who was named to the 16-player first team (players who have recorded a 3.20 or better GPA). He was one of three league players who were nominated with a perfect 4.0 GPA. Bennett was one of 13 players named to the second team (3.00 to 3.19 GPA).
Neal, a communication major from Oklahoma City, has come off the bench to average career highs of 6.7 points and 3.4 rebounds per game this season. The senior forward is also shooting career highs of .457 from the field and .424 (28-for-66) from 3-point range.
Bennett, a junior forward, is an arts and sciences planned program major who hails from Chicago. He has played in all but one game this season and averages 2.8 points and 2.0 points in 8.7 minutes a contest while shooting .638 from the field. He ranks second on the team with 24 blocked shots. This is the first Academic All-Big 12 honor for Bennett, who is coming off a six-point game at Kansas on Monday.
To qualify for the all-academic team, players must maintain a 3.00 GPA or higher (either cumulative or over the two previous semesters) and have participated in 60 percent of his team’s games. Freshmen and transfers are not eligible in their first year of academic residence.
Texas tickets sold out: Reserved tickets for the Texas game are sold out. A limited number of $10 restricted admission tickets to the game will go on sale at Lloyd Noble Center’s north and east ticket windows 1:30 p.m. Saturday.
Restricted admission tickets allow access into the arena, but do not guarantee a seat. After tipoff, restricted admission ticket holders may take any open seats that remain in the upper level. Patrons with reserved tickets have first priority to the seat location on their tickets.
Reserved tickets for Wednesday’s home finale against West Virginia are still available.
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