Oklahoma Basketball looked to go 3-0 in conference play for the first time since 2013 Saturday against Iowa State but fell by double-digits.
Iowa State was desperate for a win and played like it in their dominating win over Oklahoma Basketball. They were on a 3-game losing streak and was fresh off of a 26-point loss to Kansas coming into the game. The recent struggles led to coach Steve Prohm tweaking his starting lineup, along with giving his bench more playing time.
Spoiler: It worked.
The Cyclones had 28 bench points, forced Oklahoma, who ranks 8th in the nation in fewest turnovers, to turn the ball over 15 times, only allowed three offensive rebounds, winning the rebound battle 35-25, and hit 12 three-pointers on the game, in what was easily their best game of the season.
Oklahoma had a slow start to the game yet again, and this time they couldn’t come back, as Iowa State ended the half on a 12-0 run, including a near half-court buzzer-beater by Tyrese Haliburton in what appeared to be the nail in the Sooner’s coffin at only halftime.
The Sooners had a better second half, actually outscoring the Cyclones 43-39 in the second half, as they turned a 26 point deficit into a 13 point deficit, going on a 15-2 run with roughly 12 minutes left to play, but the slow start got to them, as they weren’t able to pull it back to single digits.
Oklahoma hasn’t won at Iowa State since 2011, so this isn’t a shock, but with their recent struggles, I really thought Oklahoma could come out of their road trip with wins over Texas and Iowa State.
It just wasn’t Oklahoma’s night, they didn’t secure a single offensive rebound in the first half, and besides the only three offensive rebounds in the game, other glaring stats that led to the loss was Iowa State beating OU 15-0 in fastbreak points, and 32-9 in points off of turnovers.
Scoring wasn’t the problem, as the Sooners nearly scored 70 points with 68.
Brady Manek stepped out of his funk of not scoring at least 10 points in back to back games, as he scored 17, along with four rebounds. Kristian Doolittle had 14 points, along with five rebounds and three assists. Austin Reaves had 12 points, five rebounds, two assists, Jamal Bieniemy had 10 points, four rebounds, and two assists, and DeVion Harmon, who’s slowly getting his groove back chipped in eleven points.
What to fix going forward
Look, these games will happen in the Big-12, and I don’t want to overreact after one loss, but there is one thing I would love to see differently from this Sooners squad.
This team’s track record has proven that they won’t turn the ball over like that very often, or ever again, but one thing I’d like to see improvement on from this Sooners squad is rebounding. Oklahoma is ranked 109th in the nation in the rebounding department, and with better work on the boards, this team definitely would’ve been in a better position to win their game on Saturday.
Oklahoma is very versatile offensively and defensively, with the team’s ability to have five guys on the floor at all times that are shooting threats from the three-point line, along with the ability to switch all screens. They’re a top 10 team nationally at turning the ball over and could make themselves twice as hard to beat if on top of their ability to score, win the turnover battle, and be versatile on defense, be able to be a good rebounding team. With the team’s length and athleticism, I think this team could be better than 109th nationally.
What could coach Kruger potentially do to improve in that department? Every time Kur Kuath is on the court it seems as if he’s making plays by dunking the ball, blocking or altering shots, and REBOUNDING the ball. In only 10.4 minutes per game, Kuath is averaging 3.4 points, 1.9 rebounds, and 1.2 blocks per game while shooting .667 percent from the field. His per 40-minute stats of 13.2 points, 7.4 rebounds, and 4.7 blocks per game shows promise that if given a bigger opportunity, (Obviously not a 40-minute opportunity) that he would be successful.
Kuath can move well and is athletic enough to switch onto guards for a few seconds and hold his own. And although he hasn’t shown his shooting touch, Kuath does have a smooth shooting stroke and can spread the floor if left open. I feel like Oklahoma can improve immensely, especially in the rebounding department, if Kuath is given a few more minutes.
Coach Kruger obviously is a hall of fame coach, with the ability to make as simple of a rotation change as this. Maybe He wants to play more guard-heavy rotations to get up and down faster, although I believe Kuath is athletic enough to be a solid rim runner for this team in transition.
Of the last four national champions, three of the four had a season-high ranking of 130 or worse in rebounds per game. Virginia (179), Villanova (130), North Carolina (1), Villanova (234).
Should the Sooners play Kuath more minutes to improve the teams rebounding and shot-blocking ability? Or does past statistics show that rebounding the basketball isn’t as much of a need in today’s game with more perimeter-oriented play?
What do you think? What other things could this team look to tweak as we get deeper into conference play? Interact with me on twitter @trenton_corn about what you think, or about all things college hoops.
Look for the Sooners to rebound literally and figuratively as they take on Kansas Tuesday, January 14th.