For the first time since Jan. 19, Oklahoma will face an unranked opponent when the No. 9 Sooners host Iowa State on Saturday in Norman, Okla.
Each of the Sooners’ last four games have been against top-15 opponents, with Oklahoma going 3-1 in those — the only loss coming Monday at No. 13 Texas Tech.
“We all know what the past games have held because they are against top opponents, top 10 nationally ranked teams,” Sooners guard De’Vion Harmon said. “But I think this game is a lot more vital than that. We know Iowa State, their record doesn’t do them justice, but they are a good team. They are really well-coached. We have to come ready.”
It’s a brief respite in the schedule for Oklahoma (11-5, 6-4 Big 12), which follows ISU with three consecutive games against ranked teams.
The Sooners are expected to get some help back with the return of guard Austin Reaves, their leading scorer who also leads them in rebounds and assists.
Reaves has missed the last two games due to COVID-19 contact tracing protocols.
“Austin is a heck of a player,” Sooners guard Elijah Harkless said. “He gets guys involved. He sacrifices a lot of his kind of stats but he’s not a big stat guy. He’s a big win guy. That says a lot about him.
“He sacrifices to get the ball up to other people when they have the opportunity and that ends up helping us with assists. Somebody like that being out, with the impact that he has every game, yeah, that’s pretty tough.”
The Cyclones are still searching for their first conference win and have dropped six in a row to fall to 2-10 overall, 0-7 in Big 12 play.
Iowa State is coming off a 76-72 loss to No. 17 West Virginia on Tuesday.
The game was one of Iowa State’s most competitive in conference play.
“For 32 minutes, we really, really competed the right way,” Cyclones coach Steve Prohm said. “We were in great position down the stretch. I’m proud of our guys. Man, it was a whole different basketball team than it was a week ago.”
Though Iowa State has mostly stayed close in Big 12 play, the Cyclones were coming off a stretch of three blowout losses by an average of 29 points ahead of the WVU game.
While the Sooners are hoping to have their point guard back, Iowa State might’ve found its point guard of the future.
Jaden Walker was recruited as a point guard but has spent little time there, though he had six points, six rebounds, six assists — and six turnovers — against West Virginia, spending some time at the point.
“He had great activity,” Prohm said. “We’ve got to take the next step, keep the rebounds, keep the assists and talk to him, show him tape about getting those turnovers down.”
Iowa State is hoping to get some help back as well, as starting forward Javan Johnson is expected to be available for the first time since Jan. 9 due to COVID-19 protocols.
–Field Level Media