Oklahoma hopes to be at full strength Tuesday when it hosts Kansas State in Big 12 play at Norman, Okla., after playing shorthanded in its last two games.
The Sooners have been without two key forwards — starter Brady Manek and backup Jalen Hill — for the last two games due to COVID-19 testing and contact tracing protocols.
Hill will return against the Wildcats while Manek is expected back as well, though he has to clear the final hurdle of the protocol before returning.
“After 11-12 days, it won’t be full speed,” Sooners coach Lon Kruger said of Manek. “But we’ll get his feet wet and see how he feels and then just proceed as he feels like going.”
Without Manek and Hill, the Sooners were forced to adjust, going to a four-guard lineup that proved a benefit defensively.
Oklahoma took then-No. 6 Kansas down to the wire on the road before blowing out TCU at home with its new-look lineup.
The Sooners haven’t played in a week after their scheduled game against Oklahoma State over the weekend was postponed due to COVID-19 issues with the Cowboys.
“Once you can do a lot of different things, that’s when you can be really dangerous,” Sooners guard Austin Reaves said. “You never want to have Brady and Jalen out, but with this year you never know what’s going to happen. Just having a feel for different ways that you can play and attack teams is good.”
The smaller lineup has had a particular impact on the perimeter. Though the Sooners (7-4, 3-3 Big 12) are still at the bottom of the Big 12 in opponents’ 3-point percentage at 37.7 percent, Oklahoma’s last two opponents have shot just 25.6 from behind the arc.
That could be a benefit against the Wildcats, who are shooting a Big 12-worst 31.2 percent on 3-pointers.
The Wildcats were one of the few Big 12 teams to play Saturday, losing 82-67 at Texas as their losing streak moved to four games.
Only two of the five Big 12 games scheduled for Saturday were played.
The Wildcats (5-9, 1-5) have been severely limited. In the loss to the Longhorns, Kansas State had just four players playing at full strength. In the game before, the Wildcats had just six scholarship players available.
“It has taken a toll,” forward Davion Bradford said. “I feel like us coming up short has had some disadvantages, but I also feel like the more we get people back and have time together and do things together and improve in practice we are going to get better in the long run.”
Kansas State’s lone conference win so far came at Iowa State, which is winless in Big 12 play.
The Wildcats figure to be limited once again, with Montavious Murphy (knee) out and Nijel Pack (COVID-19) questionable. Kaosi Ezeagu (knee) appears to be nearing a return after missing 10 consecutive games.
–Field Level Media