Back in Big 12 race, No. 9 Kansas brings hot streak to Oklahoma
Kansas coach Bill Self is still looking for consistency from his team, especially on the defensive end.
Oklahoma coach Porter Moser is still searching for it all around.
The ninth-ranked Jayhawks and the Sooners come into their Saturday matchup at Norman, Okla., in wildly different spots.
Kansas (19-5, 7-4 Big 12) is still in the hunt for a Big 12 title, entering play one game out of first place behind the Texas team the Jayhawks knocked off on Monday.
The Sooners (12-12, 2-9) are still searching for answers and holding onto the faintest of NCAA Tournament hopes but needing a big-time turnaround against a daunting schedule to do it.
The Jayhawks have won three of their past four to get back in contention in the conference after losing three consecutive games in mid-January.
Self said what his team has been missing for much of the season has been steady defensive pressure.
"When we're turned up, we're pretty good defensively," Self said. "When we're not, we get real average."
Kansas is looking to break through on the road after losing its last three Big 12 road games, though the Jayhawks won at Kentucky on Jan. 28 as part of the SEC/Big 12 Challenge in the middle of that stretch.
Kansas has won two of its past three in Norman, including a 67-64 victory last season.
The Sooners pushed Kansas to the edge in the first meeting this season before the Jayhawks closed out a 79-75 victory on Jan. 10 in Lawrence, Kan.
KJ Adams Jr. scored a career-high 22 points in that win while Jalen Wilson, Kansas' leading scorer, added 17 but shot just 3 of 12 from the floor.
Oklahoma was led by Grant Sherfield's 25 points.
"Energy," Self said is the biggest key to defending Sherfield in the rematch. "We didn't do a good job on him the first time. He scored just three points from behind the arc and he still got 25."
Sherfield has played well recently, averaging 18.8 points per game over the past four, making nearly four 3-pointers per game. It's an improvement after he scored just 28 combined points during a three-game lull in which he had no points after halftime.
While Sherfield's return to form has been welcome, Moser has been doing plenty of tinkering to find production elsewhere. The changes come amid a slump that has seem Oklahoma drop its past three games and six of the past seven, the latest setback an 82-72 decision at No. 14 Baylor on Wednesday.
Over the past two games, he took senior Jacob Groves out of the starting lineup and inserted sophomore Bijan Cortes and freshman Otego Oweh in as starters once each.
He also used Joseph Bamisile for an average of 19 minutes per game after the junior, despite being healthy, averaged less than eight minutes and scored a total of eight points in his previous nine games. Bamisile put up 11 points at West Virginia on Feb. 4 and 10 at Baylor on Wednesday.
While he hopes the changes will help, Moser said he doesn't expect anything drastic from the moves.
"It's just got to start with a complete focus and toughness and consistent effort," Moser said. "That's before trying to put magic dust or trying to change lineups, all this stuff.
"We might make subtle changes, but it isn't this (magic switch). You're not going to reinvent the wheel. It's got to start with a consistent toughness, enthusiastic togetherness. ... And that's the message."
--Field Level Media
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