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Kansas State tries figuring out OU’s Cameron Clark

  • The Wichita Eagle
  • Published Monday, Jan. 13, 2014, at 3:40 p.m.

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No. 25 Oklahoma at Kansas State

When: 6 p.m. Tuesday

Where: Bramlage Coliseum, Manhattan

Records: OU 13-3, 2-1 Big 12; K-State 12-4, 2-1

Radio: KQAM, 1480-AM; KWLS, 107.9-FM

TV: ESPN2

No. 25 Oklahoma at Kansas State

POklahomaHt.Yr. PtsReb
FCameron Clark6-7Sr.18.36.0
FRyan Spangler6-8So.10.99.2
GIsaiah Cousins6-4So.10.94.3
GBuddy Hield6-4So.16.84.5
GJordan Woodard6-0Fr.11.82.3
Kansas St.
FThomas Gipson6-7Jr.11.86.3
FWesley Iwundu6-7Fr.6.84.3
GWill Spradling6-2Sr.6.93.3
GMarcus Foster6-2Fr.13.73.9
GShane Southwell6-7Sr.10.74.8

Oklahoma (13-3, 2-1-): This was supposed to be a rebuilding year for Lon Kruger, but he hasn’t encountered much trouble with a young roster this season. No. 25 Oklahoma has exceeded most expectations so far, and it enters Tuesday’s game with loads of momentum. The Sooners handed Iowa State its first loss on Saturday. They are also off to a 2-1 start in conference play despite a difficult schedule, which as included games at Texas and at home against Kansas and Iowa State. All five members of their starting lineup average 10.9 or more points. They are also the Big 12’s top-scoring team, averaging 87 points.

Kansas State (12-4, 2-1): The Wildcats were riding high before falling hard at Kansas over the weekend. Can they quickly regain the form that helped them win 10 straight games and climb into the top 25? Or will a poor performance against the Jayhawks carry over into Tuesday’s game against the Sooners? Weber hopes his team will be in high spirits when it takes the court. It will need to play well, particularly on offense, to defeat Oklahoma. Though K-State leads the Big 12 in defensive scoring (59.8 points) it ranks last in offense (67.2 points). K-State didn’t play well defensively against Kansas. That will also need to change. This will be the third time Weber and Kruger have faced each other in the Big 12. Weber won both meetings last year, and is 3-0 against Kruger.

RPIs as of Monday: OU 22, K-State 46.

— It’s not often Bruce Weber uses “nightmare” to describe an opposing player.

But the Kansas State basketball coach did exactly that while researching Oklahoma forward Cameron Clark over the weekend.

“He has had some huge games against very good defensive teams,” Weber said of Clark. “It’s a nightmare matchup.”

Clark, a 6-foot-7 senior, has done it all for the No. 25 Sooners. He is leading the Big 12 in scoring (18.3 points) while shooting 42 percent from three-point range and averaging six rebounds. He has scored 32 points against Michigan State and Kansas, and he helped Oklahoma hand Iowa State its first loss on Saturday.

Many expected this to be a rebuilding year for Oklahoma coach Lon Kruger, but Clark has helped Oklahoma into the national rankings.

He has made threes, thrown down dunks and set up he has setup his teammates with crisp passes. He’s the focal point of the Big 12’s best offense, which averages 87 points.

“He really is a guard, but they have him playing as a hybrid four,” Weber said. “They do a lot of actions where they have the guards clipping him and screening him and they run a lot of isolations.

“Lon has done a great job of taking the talent he has and creating an offense that really puts you in a bind. (Clark) can get you inside, he can get you on the isolation, on the top of the key to the basket and he is very good in transition. When he shoots the ball well, he is very tough to stop.”

K-State will need to find a way to slow him down when it faces Oklahoma at 6 p.m. Tuesday inside Bramlage Coliseum. It will be an interesting game of contrasting teams. While Oklahoma leads the Big 12 in scoring, K-State leads the Big 12 in defense, allowing 59.8 points.

It won 10 straight from late November to early January by stifling opponents with defensive pressure, but an off day resulted in a 86-60 loss to Kansas on Saturday.

Weber has urged his team to move past that game, to remember its identity and to treat this like the biggest game on the schedule.

“Regroup and go get it,” Weber said he told the Wildcats.

They might need to score more than usual to beat the Sooners, but they will definitely need to play strong defense.

That starts with Clark. It won’t be easy.

“He generally is a pretty good mismatch,” Kruger said. “He is strong physically, but he is also pretty quick. He can shoot the ball well from range. He is a guy who can stop and shoot it, but he is also a guy who can go by you. Those are ideal mismatch opportunities.”

The strange thing about Clark is he wasn’t a difference maker in his first three seasons. He averaged 9.3 points as a freshman, but regressed as he got older. His production and playing time dropped as a sophomore and then again as a junior. It seemed like he would once again be a role player as a senior.

Instead, he worked his way into a breakout season.

“He realizes the significance of his role as far as impacting the team’s results,” Kruger said, “and he worked awfully hard in the summer to improve his shooting range and consistency and ball-handling. He has done a terrific job for us, which is great to see, because he has worked so hard. When you see a guy invest that much, it’s nice to see him get good results. It’s reinforcement to all those other guys that that extra can pay off.”

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