Lawrence, KS (SportsNetwork.com) - The Kansas Jayhawks set their sights on yet another Big 12 title, as they welcome the Oklahoma Sooners to the Allen Fieldhouse for a conference clash on Monday evening.
With a win here, the Jayhawks will clinch at least a share of their 10th straight regular-season crown. Kansas moved to 12-2 in conference play with Saturday's demolition of nationally-ranked Texas, 85-54. The win over the Longhorns gives Bill Self's squad a three-game cushion atop the standings with four to play.
Lon Kruger's Sooners would like nothing better than to prevent a Kansas celebration here and in the process bolster an already solid NCAA Tournament resume. Oklahoma comes into this game with a 20-7 overall record, including a 9-5 mark in-conference. The team has won two straight games, including an impressive 86-73 victory over Kansas State on Saturday.
Kansas has a firm grip on the all-time series with Oklahoma, with a 140-65 advantage. The Jayhawks have won 11 of the last 12 meetings and are seeking a regular-season sweep after posting a 90-83 win in Norman back on Jan. 8.
Oklahoma took advantage of a sluggish first half by Kansas State, taking a 41-22 lead into halftime. the Wildcats shot 58.1 percent from the floor over the final 20 minutes, but the Sooners countered with 60 percent accuracy in the second half to keep KSU at arm's length and earn the win. Buddy Hield led the way with 18 points, followed closely by Isaiah Cousins and his 17. Cameron Clark and Jordan Woodard also notched double figures in the victory, finishing with 11 and 10 points, respectively.
The Sooners are a dangerous offensive squad, ranking 12th in the nation at 82.7 ppg. The team is shooting a solid .452 from the floor, as well as a .744 clip from the free-throw line (521-of-700). Kruger's squad has benefited from continuity, as the team has enjoyed the same starting lineup for all 27 games thus far, with all five players averaging double figures in scoring. Hield has been the best of the bunch at 16.7 ppg. Clark is next in line at 15.2 ppg. Woodard can both score (11.0 ppg) and distribute (4.7 apg) at a high rate. Cousins (10.5 ppg) and Ryan Spangler (10.3 ppg) round out the potent quintet. The 6-foot-8 Spangler has also made his presence felt on the glass, leading the Big 12 in rebounding at 9.6 rpg.
Kansas may have a young roster, but the team has played like a veteran group. Offensively, the Jayhawks can hang with just about any team, averaging 79.7 ppg. The overall efficiency is what makes KU so dangerous, ranking second in the nation in field-goal percentage (.503). The team has also done a great job on the boards, with a +7.8 rebounding margin. Depth is also a strength, with four of the five starters averaging double figures. Freshman star Andrew Wiggins leads the charge with 16.4 ppg, Sophomore Perry Ellis (13.4 ppg, 6.5 rpg) and freshman Joel Embiid (11.1 ppg, 7.7 rpg,2.6 bpg) are a formidable frontcourt tandem. Freshman Wayne Selden Jr. (10.1 ppg) and junior Naadir Tharpe (8.7 ppg, 5.2 apg) complete the starting five in Lawrence.
One of Kansas' conference losses this season came against the Longhorns, so it was no surprise to see the Jayhawks bounce back with an emphatic victory at home this past weekend. KU made light work of Texas by blowing out the visitors in the first half and taking an insurmountable 46-18 lead into intermission. Wiggins led the way offensively with a game-high 21 points. Frank Mason came off the bench to tally 14 points, while Embiid did his thing down low, finishing with 13 points, seven rebounds and six blocked shots and in the process set the school's freshman record for blocked shots in a season (68).