Preview: Oklahoma at Iowa State

Oklahoma is hoping there is nowhere to go but up.

A five-game losing streak accompanies the Sooners to Ames, Iowa, on Saturday as OU battles Iowa State (18-8, 8-5) at 12:47 p.m. CT at Hilton Coliseum. The Sooners have lost 7 of 8 games and are 13-12 overall including 3-10 in Big 12 Conference play.

ISU defeated OU 77-70 on Feb. 4 at the Lloyd Noble Center.

Key to OU win: Getting Steven Pledger in the groove. In OU’s lone Big 12 road win at Kansas State, Pledger was the driving force with 30 points on 11 of 17 shooting. OU needs another strong shooting game from Pledger and a repeat performance of last year, when the junior scored 38 points in a win at ISU.

Key to ISU win: A strong game from Royce White. After his teammates shot 15 of 30 from the three-point line in the first meeting, expect White to have more space this time around. He’ll need to take advantage of the additional space to work.

Stat line that will tell the tale: Pledger’s free throw attempts. Generally speaking, when Pledger is playing well and into the flow of the offense, he is also getting to the free throw line and that has a direct impact on the Sooners chances to win. Pledger was 14 of 14 from the foul line in OU’s three Big 12 victories.

Sooners X factor: Tyler Neal. With 17 minutes against Texas, Neal logged double-digit minutes for the first time since Jan. 9. Coach Lon Kruger is hoping the increased playing time and eight points by Neal against the Longhorns will catapult him into a strong finish.

Cyclones X factor: Tyrus McGee. The Stringtown, Okla., native has seen his minutes increasing in recent games and he’s shooting 42.7 percent from the three-point line which helps limit the double-team opportunities on White.