Campus Corner

Five things to watch in Kansas’ Big 12 opener at Oklahoma

Updated: 2014-01-09T20:06:12Z

By RUSTIN DODD

The Kansas City Star

NORMAN, Okla. Just three days after a rare home loss in its non-conference finale, No. 18 Kansas opens Big 12 play at Oklahoma tonight at the Lloyd Noble Center. The Jayhawks have won 22 straight conference openers. Here are five things to know before the Jayhawks, 9-4, and Sooners, 12-2, tip off here in Norman.

1. Oklahoma’s three-point shooting: The Sooners do a lot of damage from long range, but they are pretty smart about their shot selection. They shoot 38.5 percent from behind the arc, which ranks 37th in the country, and they have six different players who have taken at least 25 three-pointers. But only 32.6 percent of their field-goal attempts come from three-point range (176th nationally).

In other words, this isn’t last year’s Iowa State team. Kansas allows opponents to shoot 34.8 percent from three-point range. The Jayhawks can’t allow Oklahoma to get open looks from three.

2. Kansas’ interior scoring: Before last Sunday’s loss against San Diego State, Kansas was shooting 57.5 percent on two-point shots, which ranked third nationally. The Jayhawks’ dominance in the paint was making up — for the most part — for some inconsistent outside shooting.

And then San Diego State’s defense happened.

The Aztecs used some effective big-to-big double teams that snuffed out KU’s inside game. And Kansas made just 13 of 41 from inside the three-point line. Oklahoma, though, is no San Diego State. The Sooners allow opponents to shoot 49 percent inside of three. The Jayhawks should be able to reassert their offense in the paint and play through freshman center Joel Embiid.

3. Oklahoma’s balance: The Sooners are the only Big 12 team that has used the same starting lineup in every game this year and the only team with five players averaging double figures in points. The Sooners, though, don’t have much bench scoring. The starters account for 78 percent of the Sooners’ more than 87 points per game.

Senior Cameron Clark, a 6-foot-7 forward, is shooting 47 percent from three and averaging 17.7 points per game. And while Oklahoma doesn’t have a large post presence, sophomore forward Ryan Spanger, a Gonzaga transfer, is shooting 69 percent inside the three-point line.

4. The rebounding battle: The Jayhawks were dominated on the boards against San Diego State, losing the battle 51-39. (San Diego State had 19 offensive rebounds!) One issue: The Jayhawks blocked 13 shots … but were terrible in rotational rebounding. In some ways, Bill Self said, San Diego State’s best offense was a KU blocked shot. On the whole, KU has been a solid rebounding team this season. But they must shore up some issues on the defensive glass.

5. Some random Kansas connections — other than Oklahoma coach Lon Kruger: Oklahoma freshman guard Jordan Woodard attended Edmond Memorial High School, the same alma mater as Bill Self. Sophomore guard Buddy Hield is a native of Freeport, Bahamas, who attended Sunrise Christian Academy in Wichita.

To reach Rustin Dodd, call 816-234-4937 or send email to rdodd@kcstar.com. Follow him at twitter.com/rustindodd.

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