No. 3 Kansas aims to continue defensive prowess versus Oklahoma

NCAA Basketball
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Kansas’ domination of the Big 12 came to an end last season when the Jayhawks didn’t win at least a share of the conference for the first time in 15 years.

But the Jayhawks are making a bid to get back at the top of the conference with a different formula than they’ve used in recent years.

While Kansas’ defense has been strong recently, that side of the ball is carrying the No. 3 Jayhawks this season.

Never has that been more evident than in the last two games, where the Jayhawks have held consecutive opponents to 50 or fewer points for the first time since January 2013.

Kansas (21-3, 10-1 Big 12) has held 15 of its 24 opponents to below 40 percent shooting.

Saturday at home, they’ll face an Oklahoma team that shot a season-worst 30.6 percent from the floor during the teams’ first meeting in mid-January.

A big reason for Kansas’ defensive success has been the play of guard Marcus Garrett, who had steals on three consecutive possessions Wednesday to help the Jayhawks to a win at West Virginia.

“Who guards better than him anywhere?” Kansas coach Bill Self said. “He’s unbelievable defensively.”

Still, the Jayhawks have quite a climb to get back on the championship side of things. The Jayhawks are a game behind Baylor, though they do still have a game remaining against the No. 1 Bears.

The Jayhawks are also looking to extend one of their more impressive winning streaks.

Kansas has won 18 consecutive games against the Sooners at Allen Fieldhouse. Oklahoma’s last win in the storied arena came on Feb. 17, 1993.

For Oklahoma (16-8, 6-5), the game marks the start of the toughest stretch of the season.

Over the next five games, the Sooners will face four ranked teams, including top-ranked Baylor, the No. 3 Jayhawks, No. 14 West Virginia and No. 24 Texas Tech.

The lone game against an unranked opponent during that stretch is Oklahoma’s in-state rival, Oklahoma State.

“You can look at pretty much any three- or four-game stretch in Big 12 play and say, ‘Wow, that’s tough,'” Sooners coach Lon Kruger said. “And obviously the games coming up now, we’ve got two of the top three teams in the country on the schedule. But that’s the way it is in the Big 12. And a lot of individuals playing well. A lot of good ball movement. A lot of good things going on right now (in the league).”

The Sooners have won four out of their last six, including two consecutive.

The wins over West Virginia and Iowa State were largely fueled by the play of sophomore forward Kristian Doolittle.

Over the last two games, Doolittle is averaging 23.5 points, 9.0 rebounds and 2.5 steals while shooting 54.5 percent from the floor to snap out of what had been a slump that started in mid-January.

“Definitely out of the funk,” Doolittle said. “That goes to the repetitions and the extra work I was putting in while I was going through the slump. Now, I’m starting to have results.”

–Field Level Media

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