After pulling even in the Big 12 race, the Jayhawks return home to face an Oklahoma State team that is still trying to live up to its talent. In some ways this is the perfect game after a heavyweight fight like KU-Baylor: a home game against a bottom of the Big 12 team. But in some ways it is a dangerous opponent: Kansas will likely still be tired, and while Oklahoma State hasn’t had the results that will make Kansas take them seriously, their talent absolutely should.
Offensively, the Cowboys have been incredibly frustrating. Armed with two of the better shooters in the league, they’re taking threes on just over a third of their attempts and only shooting about 31 percent for the season - and under 30 percent in Big 12 play. Last time out Kansas really frustrated Thomas Dziagwa, not letting him get any room off the catch and forcing him into tough shots whenever he was able to shoot. They’ll have to do much of the same tonight with him as well as Lindy Waters, even though the latter is shooting just 31.8 percent from three this season.
Their offense has been on an uptick lately, scoring over a point per possession in four of its last six games, including against Baylor and Texas Tech. Last meeting against Kansas they were nowhere near that magical number, but to be fair did shoot just 2-18 from three. Even shooting just 33 percent would have gotten them to a point per trip, so the Jayhawks should not be expecting to coast in this one.
Defensively, the Cowboys have been better than offensively, but have also benefited from the proverbial 3-point luck. They’re giving up 3-point attempts on over 45 percent of opponents’ shots from the field, but teams are shooting just 30.5 percent from three against them. Obviously Kansas isn’t a 3-point heavy team, but have guys who can shoot in the mid 30s if given open shots, and with Udoka Azubuike likely pretty tired after Saturday, it makes sense to lean on the perimeter game a bit more in this one.
The Cowboys did a really good job inside last meeting, with Azubuike getting only four field goal attempts and Kansas as a team shooting under 50 percent from two. Fortunately for the Jayhawks, Oklahoma State doesn’t force a lot of turnovers, so they should be able to get enough shot volume to win even with a below par (or above par I suppose) shooting night.
Players to Watch
Isaac Likekele, 6-4 sophomore guard
It’s been a disappointing season for Likekele coming off a breakthrough freshman campaign and an excellent summer with USA Basketball. He’s posting an offensive rating near 80 in Big 12 play, shooting just 37 percent from two, and his effort on defense has come and gone.
Thomas Dziagwa, 6-4 senior guard
Shooting over 40 percent from three, Dziagwa is a guy Kansas can’t afford to let get hot. He only attempted 3 in the previous meeting, didn’t make any, and unlike some of the other Cowboy attempts which could be called open, the Jayhawks blanketed Dziagwa all night. They’ll need to again to stave off an upset.
Cameron McGriff, 6-7 senior wing
McGriff has been Oklahoma State’s best player in Big 12 play, shooting almost 50 percent from two on high volume, and shooting 35 percent from three. He’s at just 31 percent from deep for the season overall and 31.4 percent for his career, however.
Lindy Waters, 6-6 senior wing
It’s been a season to forget for the most part for Waters, as he’s shooting under 33 percent from three. But at around 40 percent for his career on 438 attempts, he obviously has the talent to get it going at any moment. He also remains my favorite non KU player in the Big 12 for reasons that go beyond basketball, and hopefully he has a strong finish to his career (after tonight is over).
The Jayhawks are no doubt coming in tired, and with Oklahoma State coming off a big win over in-state rival Oklahoma, they’ll no doubt be looking to rack up their second win in Allen Fieldhouse in three seasons. I do think they’ll keep it close, and it will probably be a game at halftime, but the Jayhawks should make enough threes and keep the Cowboys from scoring too much and should eventually pull away. I’ll say 71-62 Kansas.
2020 Record ATS: 16-10.