Norman, OK (SportsNetwork.com) - The 18th-ranked Kansas Jayhawks begin defense of their Big 12 Conference title, as they take on the dangerous Oklahoma Sooners in a league bout at the Lloyd Noble Center on Wednesday.
Bill Self Jayhawks dropped a 61-57 decision to nationally-ranked San Diego State last time out, ending a 68-game homecourt winning streak against non- conference foes. Kansas is now 9-4 and embarking on its league slate, where the team has won 22 straight conference openers dating back to the 1991-92 campaign.
Lon Kruger has a strong team in Norman that is currently flying a bit under the radar. The Sooners are an impressive 12-2 on the year and opened league play last weekend on the road at Texas, coming away with a thrilling 88-85 victory.
The Jayhawks hold a 139-65 advantage in a series that dates back to 1920. Kansas has won 10 of the last 11 meetings, but had a 10-game win streak halted last year in Norman, as the Sooners defended their home court with a 72-66 victory.
A young team that features three freshman among the starting five, Kansas has had its ups and downs this season already. Still, the numbers are impressive, with KU averaging 77.7 ppg on a healthy .492 shooting, while enjoying a solid +6.3 rebounding margin. Where the youth has hurt the team is in the area of turnovers, with the Jayhawks currently saddled with a -2.1 turnover margin. Freshman guard Andrew Wiggins leads the way in the scoring column with a solid 15.8 ppg. He gets help from the frontcourt tandem sophomore forward Perry Ellis (13.2 ppg, 6.5 rpg) and freshman center Joel Embiid (10.8 ppg, 7.3 rpg, 2.5 bpg). Freshman Wayne Selden Jr. (8.5 ppg) and junior Naadir Tharpe (7.6 ppg) round out the starting five.
Kansas blocked a season-high 13 shots, but allowed San Diego State a ton of opportunities with the Aztecs grabbing 51 rebounds in their win in Lawrence, the most rebounds allowed by Kansas since 2004. Wiggins and Frank Mason finished with 14 points apiece to lead the way offensively for the Jayhawks. Embiid had a big game in the middle, posting a double-double with 12 points and 12 boards, while blocking five shots. It wasn't nearly enough however, as the Jayhawks shot an ugly 29.8 percent from the floor overall.
The Sooners grabbed 17 offensive rebounds, and outscored Texas 19-9 in second- chance points, while earning a three-point win in Austin last weekend. Buddy Hield was 8-of-14 from the floor and led the team with 22 points. Four other Sooners finished in double figures, with Je'lon Hombeak and Isaiah Cousins posting 13 points, while Jordan Woodard and Ryan Spangler tacked on 12 and 11 points, respectively.
Oklahoma is one of the top offensive teams in the country, ranked fifth nationally at 87.3 ppg. All five starters are averaging double figures, giving OU a balanced attack. Cameron Clark leads the way with 17.7 ppg. Hield is a close second at 16.3 ppg. Woodard (12.2 ppg), Spangler (11.0 ppg) and Cousins (10.9 ppg) complete the potent quintet. Spangler has been a real force up front, shooting a hefty .656 from the floor, while the 6-foot-8 sophomore ranks second in the Big 12 in rebounding (9.2 rpg).