A Herculean challenge awaits Oklahoma Saturday morning when it visits the Kansas Jayhawks' 16,300-seat arena.
Sooner guard Jamal Bieniemy experienced Allen Fieldhouse, which resides in Lawrence, Kansas, for the first time last season. The experience was fun, loud and lent to an environment any basketball player would love, he said. The Sooners lost, though, just as each team before it has since 1994.
The unranked Sooners (16-8, 6-5 in Big 12) won back-to-back games this past week — including an upset of then-No. 13 West Virginia — for the first time in a month. That recent success gives OU coach Lon Kruger more confidence than anything that OU can end its 27-year drought of a win at Kansas.
There’s no denying, though, the difficulty KU’s home court presents.
“It’s a tough place and they’re great,” Kruger said. “One of the two or three best teams in the country and playing great at home. You got to go in with confidence, you got to go in and attack.”
OU's confidence seems to be at a season-high following the previous week.
Brady Manek and Kristian Doolittle, averaging 15.9 and 15.0 points, respectively, have the Sooners on the right side of the NCAA Tournament bubble.
Alondes Williams, scoring 6.7 points per night, has established himself as OU's third starting guard alongside Austin Reaves, who's getting 14.2 points a night, and Bieniemy, who's scoring 5.3 a game.
OU looked as dominant as it has all season against a major-conference opponent in a 90-61 win over Iowa State on Wednesday.
“We played how we were supposed to play," Doolittle said.
Even at OU’s best, winning a third-straight game — this one in Lawrence — seems next to impossible considering OU’s recent history.
OU's last win at KU came Feb. 17, 1993.
Former All-American Eduardo Najera never got OU over the hump.
Terrell Everett, Taj Gray, Michael Neal and Kevin Bookout came within a point of beating the Jayhawks in 2006.
The 2009 NBA Draft's first overall pick Blake Griffin was injured in his one trip to Allen Fieldhouse in 2008, resulting in a 30-point OU loss.
And 2016’s Wooden Award winner Buddy Hield scored 46 points against KU on Jan. 4, 2016 but Kansas still prevailed in three overtimes.
Perhaps this OU team can end the losing streak. It seems unlikely with only three players owning more than a year of Big 12 experience.
But the momentum is there for the Sooners, who project as a No. 9 seed in ESPN.com’s latest NCAA Tournament projection.
A little March Madness chaos might be necessary to grab a win against the Jayhawks.
“This group, we have three guys that had played Big 12 basketball games going in,” Kruger said. “I think now they have a better idea of what that means and how tough that is.
“I think they’ve made ton of progress in that area from week two or three in conference [play] to now what they’re going into in Allen Fieldhouse on Saturday.”
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Oklahoma at Kansas
Time/Place: 11 a.m. | Allen Fieldhouse, Lawrence, Kan.
Records/Rankings: OU (16-8, 6-5 Big 12); Kansas (21-3, 10-1 Big 12)
OU starters: G 24 Jamal Bieniemy (6-5, So./5.3 ppg, 4.0 rpg); G 15 Alondes Williams (6-5, Jr./6.7 ppg, 2.1 rpg); G 12 Austin Reaves (6-5, Jr./14.2 ppg, 5.0 rpg); F 0 Kristian Doolittle (6-7, Sr./15.0 ppg, 9.0 rpg); F 35 Brady Manek (6-9, So./15.9 ppg, 6.4 rpg)
Kansas starters: G 1 Devon Dotson (6-2, So./17.9 ppg, 4.3 apg); G 0 Marcus Garrett (6-5, Jr./9.2 ppg, 4.5 apg); G 30 Ochai Agbaji (6-5, So./10.2 ppg, 4.3 rpg); G 2 Christian Braun (6-6, Fr./4.9 ppg, 3.0 rpg); C 35 Udoka Azubuike (7-0, Sr./12.7 ppg, 9.6 rpg)
Series: KU leads 149-68
Radio: KRXO 107.7 FM