No. 7 Kansas Jayhawks (18-4 overall, 7-2 Big 12) vs. Oklahoma State Cowboys (13-9 overall, 3-6 Big 12)
Time: 11 a.m. | Location: Allen Fieldhouse, Lawrence, Kansas
TV: CBS | Radio: IMG Jayhawk Radio Network
Log on to KUsports.com for our live game blog coverage and follow the KUsports.com staff on Twitter: @KUSports @mctait @TomKeeganLJW @bentonasmith @nightengalejr @chasenscott & @nickkrug
1. Limit OSU's transition
The Cowboys like to play fast. KU coach Bill Self this week said that was one of the things about this OSU squad that jumped out first. Oklahoma State coach Mike Boynton said that was one of the aspects of offense he and his staff emphasize every timeout.
Because of that, the Cowboys are averaging 77.6 points per game — good for fifth in the Big 12.
While the Cowboys have their share of half-court scorers — senior guard Jeffrey Carroll is 11th in the conference at 15.8 points per game, and senior Mitchell Solomon has had some of his best offensive games against the Jayhawks — the Cowboys aren’t exactly at their best in half-court sets.
Not only does Oklahoma State rank seventh in the Big 12 in both effective field goal percentage and ninth in 3-point percentage, but the Cowboys are facing a Kansas team that leads the Big 12 in effective field goal percentage defense.
2. Back it up
Monday night, the Jayhawks outrebounded Kansas State by 10, marking the first time in 11 games that KU came out on the right side of the rebounding battle.
The amazing thing about that effort was the fact that KU's big men got just eight boards between them, leaving the rest for the guards. Sophomore Malik Newman, now averaging 5.1 per game, led the team with 10 rebounds and Self said his team's solid defense led to some easy rebounds for the guards who “did a good job of cleaning up.”
Self wants to see that same effort from the guards and better effort from the bigs. That, he believes, will give his team a chance to back up the effort it showed on Monday against K-State.
“We rebounded the ball decent the other night,” Self said. “But that's one time. We've got to rebound better.”
Oklahoma State enters this one averaging 37.2 rebounds per game: 12 a game on the offensive glass and 25 a game on defense. Two of the three totals are slightly better than KU's per game numbers (36.5 total, 9.7 offensive, 26.8 defensive).
OSU ranks just second in offensive rebounding — two spots ahead of KU — and actually ranks behind Kansas in rebounding defense.
3. Coaching edge
Although first-year OSU coach Mike Boynton, 36, has impressed many, including Self, with his poise and ability to run a program so far this season, the challenge he faces this weekend will be his toughest to date.
Not only will Boynton be going up against a Hall of Famer on the other bench; he’ll be doing it while making his first appearance inside Allen Fieldhouse.
Self praised Boynton this week for his in-game demeanor, and Boynton said his ability to keep cool is something he’s always had and something he likes because of the positive impact it has on his team.
Whether he’ll be able to use that to his advantage inside one of college basketball’s most famed and toughest venues remains to be seen.
Battle of the Mitches
Oklahoma State senior Mitchell Solomon, a man Self lightheartedly called a Jayhawk killer earlier this week, has led the kind of career path that KU sophomore Mitch Lightfoot would love to follow.
After a couple of years as a role player coming off the bench, Solomon has become one of the more important players in the OSU lineup this year, leading the team in both rebounding (6.4) and blocks (27) and also operating as a key team leader.
Solomon’s 24.5 minutes per game average ranks just fifth on the team, but, like Lightfoot in his 13.8 mpg, he packs a lot into those minutes and gets the most out of every one.
These two might not face up against each other all that much in this one, but both deliver the kind of hustle plays and extra efforts that can play a huge role in determining the outcome.
With a one-game lead in the Big 12 race heading into the second half of the conference season, the Jayhawks have back-to-back home games in the next five days and will be looking to gain even more separation than they already have.
Doing that won’t be easy, and Self and his players know that. Self said earlier this week that there is no such thing as a major upset in the Big 12, and the results already have proven that plenty this season. Bottom half teams like Oklahoma State and Iowa State have big wins over contenders Oklahoma and West Virginia, and Self said the Cowboys could give KU fits in a number of areas if the Jayhawks don’t show up ready to play.
Kansas wants to bring the same kind of tenacity and toughness they have shown in their 4-1 Big 12 road stint back to Allen Fieldhouse. KU’s three home conference wins have come by an average margin of just three points, while the four road wins have carried a 7.3 points-per-victory margin.
Add to that the fact that the program will be welcoming back nearly 200 former players, coaches and staff members for a celebration of 120 years of Kansas Basketball and it’s easy to see why the Jayhawks could be inspired to continue their recent trend of fast starts and comfortable final margins.
No. 7 Kansas
G – Devonte’ Graham, 6-2, 185, Sr.
G – Malik Newman, 6-3, 190, Soph.
G – Svi Mykhailiuk, 6-8, 205, Sr.
G – Lagerald Vick, 6-5, 175, Jr.
C – Udoka Azubuike, 7-0, 280, Soph.
G – Brandon Averette, 5-11, 185, Soph.
G – Jeffrey Carroll, 6-6, 220, Sr.
G – Lindy Waters III, 6-6, 205, Soph.
F – Yankuba Sima, 6-11, 225, Jr.
F – Mitchell Solomon, 6-9, 250, Sr.