KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Two games between Oklahoma and Iowa State produced nearly identical outcomes. The home team imposed its will and rolled to convincing victories each time.
So, what does that mean for today’s Big 12 tournament quarterfinal meeting between the fourth-seeded Sooners and the fifth-seeded Cyclones?
“I would imagine a neutral site with two pretty even teams would turn into a pretty even battle,” OU coach Lon Kruger said.
That could be the case when they meet at 11:30 a.m. today at Sprint Center. If other tendencies from the regular season carry over. It should not take long to figure which team is primed to advance.
What epitomized the outcome of the previous OU-Iowa State games were the opening minutes. The games weren’t decided in the first 10 minutes, but the aggressor was easily identified.
The Cyclones (21-10) connected on their first four 3-point attempts when OU (20-10) traveled to Hilton Coliseum in Ames, Iowa, Feb. 4, and held a double-digit lead throughout the final 30 minutes. OU never came close to catching up in the 83-64 loss.
There was a lesson OU learned from that game: slow starts are a recipe for disaster. The Cyclones’ deep roster of 3-point shooters can rack up points too quickly for large deficits to be made up. Iowa State has made 309 3-pointers this season — twice OU’s total of 151.
“If we don’t come out and play hard from the jump ball we could be looking at being down 19-2 at the first TV timeout because Iowa State is that type of team,” OU point guard Sam Grooms said. “We have to go out and play as hard as we can and understand that we cannot give up easy shots. We have to take every possession as serious as we can. If we do all those things, I think we’ll be successful at the end of the day.”
Grooms had a huge hand in the success OU enjoyed in its 86-69 victory over the Cyclones 12 days ago at Lloyd Noble Center. He scored 19 points and handed out six assists.
The big key was the Sooners shooting 51 percent in the first half, tenaciously defending and, of course, making 34 of 34 free throws.
But a lot has changed since that game. They Cyclones topped No. 14 Oklahoma State and West Virginia to end the regular season. OU rolled through West Virginia, but is coming off that stunning loss to TCU. It was a performance where OU came out flat, dug itself a huge hole and couldn’t escape it.
The loss to TCU was a reminder of where sluggish starts can lead to.
“Sometimes things happen for the betterment of the team. We may not be able to see it then. Hopefully, this will let us propel in the right direction and get us ready to play against some really good competition this weekend,” OU forward Romero Osby said.
The Sooners have to win the first one to get anywhere near the weekend. This season has proven OU-Iowa State games greatly reward the teams that are focused from the opening tip.
“It’s very important,” Kruger said. “Iowa State got off to a great start in Ames and played with that margin the rest of the way. We did the same thing in Norman. Both teams want to get off to a good start.”
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