LAWRENCE, Kan. – Kansas men's basketball coach Bill Self announced Monday that he has suspended…
Oklahoma returns five letterwinners and one starter off last season's team, which went 13-18 and 4-12 in the Big 12. OU (12-15, 4-9 in Big 12), which is 11-3 at home this season, has lost six straight games and is coming off a 61-47 loss at No. 17 Texas A&M Wednesday.
Sophomore forward Andrew Fitzgerald leads the attack with a team-high 13.3 points per game, while also tying for team-high rebounding honors at 5.2 boards per game. He's followed in scoring by senior guard Cade Davis (13.0 ppg, 5.2 rpg), sophomore guard Steven Pledger (11.4 ppg), freshman swingman Cameron Clark (9.6 ppg) and sophomore guard Carl Blair (7.6 ppg, team-high 111 assists).
Head coach Jeff Capel's Sooners average 66 points per game and allow 67.8. OU is shooting 45.2 percent from the field, 34.3 percent from three-point range, and 72.6 percent at the free-throw line. They're holding opponents to 44.9 percent shooting and 36.2 percent from beyond the arc, while being outrebounded 31.0 to 32.1 boards per game.
SELF ON SOONERS
KU coach Bill Self believes the Sooners are making progress this season, despite their poor record.
"Seeing them early in the season to where they are now, Jeff has done a great job," Self said. "They were in the game late (against A&M). They are certainly a different team than they were when the season started. They've lost some close games of late, and their record is not an indication of how much they've improved. They are a much better basketball team than they were a month and a half ago."
Self said OU presents some matchup problems.
"Obviously, I love Cade Davis," Self said of the 6-5, 209-pound guard. "They've been playing him at the four, but you can guard him at the three, you can guard him at the four. They can present problems that way. He can really get on a roll and make shots. Fitzgerald's become a very good back to the basket guy and even facing (the hoop). The thing that they do is they mix their defenses. They do some things where they just don't give up easy baskets. I think they're good defensively."
ELIJAH TO START AGAIN
Self said Thursday that sophomore Elijah Johnson will start again Saturday. Johnson started at point guard on Saturday against Oklahoma State in place of suspended guard Tyshawn Taylor, coming up big with a career-high 15 points in 30 minutes. Johnson was 5-of-6 from the field and 4-of-4 from three-point range.
Self said he played with "more of a free mind" with Taylor out of action.
"He knows he's going to play," Self said. "That helps a lot, knowing that you don't have to look over your shoulder if you screw up. He's a bench watcher more so than what I'd like when he screws up. He wants to please, he wants to do what's right, but when you play not to screw up usually that's when you screw up the most.
"I thought he played with more of a free mind. ... He played well because he wasn't worried about screwing up. He was worried about guarding (Keiton) Paige and being solid defensively. When you're worried about the right things, good things happen in other areas."
HIGH SCHOOL REUNION
Fitzgerald (6-8, 226 pounds) and KU sophomore forward Thomas Robinson were high school teammates at Brewster Academy in Wolfeboro, N.H. Robinson is very impressed with Fitzgerald, one of his best friends.
"(In high school) we were interchangeable pretty much. I played the four, he played the five," Robinson said. "He's more of a mid-range player. Short-corner shots, that's his game. He's a very good mid-range shooter, probably one of the best at it. He's a face-up player, and he has a good work ethic."
Robinson said he talks a lot to Fitzgerald during the season.
"They're (Oklahoma) just hanging in there," Robinson said. "They're still trying to get used to each other as a team. They keep working hard. I told him, ‘Keep playing. Things will fall into place.'"
THE KU-OU SERIES
KU leads the all-time series with OU, 135-64. The Jayhawks have won six straight since 2006. KU is 47-40 in Norman, but tied with OU, 15-15, in games played in Lloyd Noble Center. Kansas has won the last two meetings at Lloyd Noble and is 2-1 there under Self.
The series dates back to 1920.
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