PREVIEW: Men’s basketball looks to even season series with Oklahoma

Junior guard Cartier Diarra charges the basket during the men’s basketball game against West Virginia in Bramlage Coliseum on Jan. 18, 2020. The Wildcats were able to take the Mountaineers with a final score of 84-68. (Logan Wassall | Collegian Media Group)

On Wednesday, the men’s basketball team (8-11, 1-5 Big 12) will look to even up the season series against the Oklahoma Sooners (13-6, 3-3 Big 12) inside Bramlage Coliseum. The Sooners beat the Wildcats in Norman, Oklahoma 66-61 to open Big 12 play on Jan. 4.

The Wildcats have struggled in conference play this season so far. They lost their first four Big 12 games going into the match-up against then-No. 12 West Virginia in Manhattan.

Against the Mountaineers, the Wildcats came out and played the way you would expect a team in this conference to play. Kansas State upset No. 12 West Virginia 84-68 on Jan. 18. The Wildcats only gave the lead up once and allowed six made shots from beyond the arc.

Redshirt junior guard Cartier Diarra tied a season-high 25 points in the upset win. Diarra averages 13 points per game and has started every Big 12 game so far this season. The only match-up Diarra has come off the bench was in the Big 12/SEC Challenge against Alabama on Jan. 25 where the Wildcats lost 77-74 in Tuscaloosa.

The most recent action for the Wildcats in Big 12 play was in the Sunflower Showdown against in-state rival Kansas. The Jayhawks blew out the Wildcats 80-61 in Lawrence on Jan. 21. K-State only scored 23 points in the first half and made 6-13 from the free-throw line.

The Sooners average 71 points this season. Oklahoma’s junior forward Brady Manek leads the team with 15 points and shoots 43 percent from three-point range.

If you foul the Sooners and get them to the line, they’re shooting 76 percent from the stripe. The most rebounds against a Big 12 opponent was 40 against the Wildcats on Jan. 4.

Oklahoma won its game against Mississippi State 63-62 in the Big 12/SEC Challenge on Saturday.

In their last Big 12 game, the Sooners fell to No. 1 Baylor on the road in Waco, Texas 61-57 on Jan. 20. Manek scored 21 points in the loss and had 10 boards.

On the road in Norman, K-State’s leading scorer in the 66-61 loss was senior forward Xavier Sneed who had 22 points on the night. This was K-State’s fifth straight loss by single-digit margins.

There were a couple of key factors in this game that led to K-State’s loss.

One was the duo of redshirt junior guard transfer Austin Reaves and senior forward Kristian Doolittle for the Sooners as they combined for 40 of the 66 points scored by Oklahoma. Reaves, a transfer from Wichita State this year, scored 21 in his debut against a Big 12 opponent. Out of his 21 on the day, 18 points were in the last 11 minutes of the second half. The Sooners went on a 12-0 run in the last 3:45 of the game. Doolittle had 19 points and 12 boards on the day.

K-State recorded 23 fouls as a team to Oklahoma’s 13. This sent the Sooners to the free-throw line 29 times where they made 23 shots, shooting 79 percent. The Wildcats have struggled to get to the charity stripe this season, but even when they make it there, they only shoot 65 percent as a team.

Inexperience and lack of leadership really hurt this Wildcat team. If those with more experience — Sneed and Diarra — can step up in key situations and let the younger players feed off them, K-State has a chance at beating Oklahoma for the first time this season. However, the team will have to do it without freshman forward Antonio Gordon, who is suspended.

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