Friday, February 17, 2006

Sooners Host Cyclones

After losing at Colorado Wednesday night the Sooners return home to play the Iowa State Cyclones. I’m not really sure at this point what to say or what to think. Iowa State has a 14-10, (4-7 in the Big 12) record and their guard play could be very dangerous. OU has won five of six games against Iowa State in Norman under head coach Kelvin Sampson. The game is going to be televised by ABC with Ron Franklin (play-by-play) and Fran Fraschilla (analyst) announcing

After their loss at Colorado on Wednesday, the Sooners fell into a third-place Big 12 tie with the Buffaloes. OU has the advantage of better scheduling the rest of the way and if they take care of business shouldn’t be in danger of losing a first round bye in the conference tournament. Before the Colorado game Oklahoma had won seven of their last eight games.

One good thing that happened in Boulder was Michael Neal going off for a career high 26 points. The Sooners will need him to continue on that pace and have Kevin Bookout and Taj Gray take advantage of the youth that Iowa State has on the inside.

Another area where the Sooners need to improve Saturday is on the boards. That’s had to say for the best rebounding team in the country but OU was out boarded by Colorado 41-32 Wednesday night. Second chance points will be huge.

Scouting the Cyclones
F 0 Shawn Taggart (6-10, 225, Fr., 5.8 ppg, 3.5 rpg, 0.3 apg)
F 13 Rahshon Clark (6-6, 190, So., 13.4 ppg, 5.8 rpg, 1.4 apg)
C 33 Jiri Hubalek (6-11, 205, So., 8.1 ppg, 3.7 rpg, 0.6 apg)
G 1 Curtis Stinson (6-3, 215, Jr., 19.5 ppg, 5.0 rpg, 5.5 apg)
G 11 Will Blalock (6-0, 205, Jr., 14.9 ppg, 3.0 rpg, 6.2 apg)

Iowa State has had troubles of their own recently. They are currently on a three game losing streak and have lost four out of their last five. The Cyclones, coming off a 73-63 home defeat to Nebraska on Wednesday in which they were outrebounded 45-28, are tied with Kansas State for eighth place in the Big 12.

ISU leads the league in steals (10.1 spg) and turnover margin (+6.1), ranks second in free throw percentage, third in scoring (77.5 ppg) and fourth in field goal percentage (.458). However, the Cyclones rank last in scoring defense (73.8 ppg) and field goal percentage defense (.462). You know Michael Neal and Terrell Everett are loving that!

All-Big 12 candidate Curtis Stinson ranks second in the league in scoring with his 19.5 points a game and is tied for the conference lead in steals (2.7 spg). He also averages 5.0 rebounds and 5.5 assists a contest. Stinson needs nine more steals to become the third player in Big 12 history to accumulate 1,500 points, 400 rebounds, 400 assists and 200 steals in a career. Junior point guard Will Blalock supplies 14.9 points, 3.0 rebounds, 6.2 assists and 2.2 steals a game. His assists average ranks second in the league behind OU’s Terrell Everett (6.5). Blalock scored 23 points on 10-for-20 shooting Wednesday. Sophomore forward Rahshon Clark averages 13.4 points, a team-high 5.8 rebounds and 1.4 steals a game while shooting .504 from the floor. Sophomore center Jiri Hubalek, from Prague, Czech Republic, contributes 8.1 points and 3.7 boards per contest.

OU needs this game and I say they win it 77-65.

Taj Gray Picks Up NABC Honor
Oklahoma senior forward Taj Gray was named to the five-man National Association of Basketball Coaches First-Team All-District 12 squad Friday. It marks the second year in a row the 6-9, 238-pounder from Wichita, Kan., has earned the honor.

Gray, who has started all 22 games for the 16-6 Sooners (7-4 Big 12), leads OU in scoring (14.1 ppg), rebounding (7.9 rpg) and blocked shots (1.4 bpg). He is shooting .571 from the field to rank third in the Big 12 and has shot .500 or better in 18 of his 22 outings. The Big 12 Preseason Player of the Year has scored 22 points on three occasions this year and netted a career-high 31 (21 in the second half) against West Virginia on Dec. 22. He has grabbed at least 10 rebounds on six occasions, a season-high 14 twice.