It really doesn’t get any bigger than this.
Saturday’s Bedlam matchup is a season defining game for both sides. Despite low optimism, this Oklahoma State team is right in the thick of the hunt for an NCAA tournament bid. What is lacking in the Cowboy’s resume is a nice batch of signature wins. Sure, Florida State was a solid win, but what separates bubble teams from the rest are wins in games like the one Oklahoma State has on Saturday. As for the Sooners, this is absolutely a must win game if they are to be taken seriously as a Big 12 championship contender. After being exposed by Kansas State on the road, it’s certainly starting to appear that OU is a notch below the likes of Kansas, West Virginia, and maybe even Texas Tech but a win in Stillwater could get them back on track.
Let’s get to the preview:
Who: Oklahoma State vs No. 4 Oklahoma Sooners
Where: Gallagher-Iba Arena, Stillwater, Ok
When: 1:00 p.m.
The last time I previewed OU, I believed the absolute key to beating that team was stopping Trae Young. After watching them pound OSU in Norman along with a few of their other Big 12 bouts I can honestly say I was wrong. I’ve pretty much come to the conclusion that Young is going to get his points no matter what. If him making ridiculous threes from NBA range is what its going to take to beat us I can live with that. What I can’t live with is the Cowboy defense attributing so much attention to Young that Brady Manek goes off for 28.
In an overtime win over TCU in Norman, Trae Young went unconscious for 43 points, yet the Frogs still had to completely choke for the Sooners to win. Let’s compare that to the first bedlam game in Norman when the Pokes seemed to be doubling Young left and right which ended with him shooting 13 free throws and tallying 10 assists as he found wide open teammates all day and still scored 25 plus points.
As for the most recent loss to Kansas State, Barry Brown whom Oklahoma State fans are all familiar with after he torched us in Manhattan, made Trae Young’s life a complete hell. While Brown harassed Young, the rest of the K-State defense provided a consistent outside pressure that really limited the makes in the Sooner’s barrage of 3-point attempts. I would guess that Brandon Averette, Tavarius Shine, or even former Norman North teammate Lindy Waters would primarily be tasked with guarding Young and all could take a few notes from the way Brown handled it.
Keys to the Game
“A tale of two halves” might be the most cliche phrase in all of sports but it is all too relevant for these Pokes. Against Baylor, the Cowboys put together a solid effort on both sides of the ball in the first half as they went to the locker room with a 27-26 lead. The worst seemed to already be behind us as well given that Baylor had already blown a ten point lead in the first half but that did not end up being the case as they nearly doubled their point total from the first half in the second.
The Pokes also need to stay out of foul trouble if they are going to have a chance. Both Shine and Solomon fouled out in round one and Averette finished with four. On top of that the Sooners shot 34 free throws compared to the Cowboys 19.
Winning the turnover battle will be huge as well. Trae Young is such a big part of the Sooner offense and is involved in nearly every play, which means if he breaks down, the entire offense crumbles like a house of cards. Against Kansas State, the Sooners had 20 turnovers, 12 of which were Trae Young’s that turned into 19 Wildcat points.
There’s something special about rivalry games that says anything can happen. For some reason, I have a feeling the Cowboys will come out with a win in this one. The more I’ve watched OU the more I’ve felt like they aren’t the elite team they’ve pretended to be earlier this season. Pair that with the fact that it is terribly difficult to win on the road in this conference and you have my prediction. Call me cautiously optimistic.
Oklahoma State 85, OU 79