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Junior guard Frank Mason III searches for a teammate to pass the ball to in a game against Oklahoma. The Jayhawks will face the Sooners for the second time this year in Norman, Okla. on Saturday.

When the No. 6 Kansas Jayhawks travel to Norman, Okla. to take on the No. 3 Oklahoma Sooners, it will be almost impossible to replicate the instant classic that took place in January. Kansas came out on top in the battle of top ranked teams 109-106 in triple-overtime despite Oklahoma guard Buddy Hield’s 46 points on just 23 shots.

The last matchup featured No. 1 in the AP poll vs. No. 1 in the Coaches' poll. Now, with the Jayhawks riding a four-game winning streak, both teams are No. 1 in the Big 12 standings, along with West Virginia; both are 8-3 in conference play. Additionally, ESPN’s College Gameday will be attendance for the highly anticipated rematch.

“We’ll be ready to play,” junior forward Landen Lucas said. “We have a new hunger about us that we’ll bring down there. We’re getting our confidence back.”

With a win, the Jayhawks could take control of the Big 12. If they lose, their margin for error will be gone, and they would need somebody else to knock off the Sooners at least once.

“I think we’re playing better,” head coach Bill Self said. “We had that dull stretch. Hopefully everybody else hits that in February and we’ve already hit it.”

If they're going to win their 12th consecutive conference championship, the Jayhawks will need to prove they can beat good teams on the road, which is something they haven’t done yet in conference play.

“We’ve probably got the toughest schedule of anybody left,” Self said. “But you’ve got to go win away from home. We got to go steal one that we let slip away because five losses might get a share of it (conference title). I think if somebody gets hot, four losses can win it.”

In order to steal one on the road, the Jayhawks will have to find a way to slow down the Sooners’ perimeter onslaught. Hield, the runaway pick for Naismith Player of the Year at this point, is averaging 25.7 points per game on 51 percent shooting from the field and 50 percent shooting from beyond the arc.

Meanwhile, point guard Isaiah Cousins is averaging 13.6 points and 4.6 assists per game, while guard Jordan Woodard is adding 13.3 points per game. That three-headed monster has led the Sooners to be the best three-point shooting team in the nation at 45.1 percent.

“Oklahoma is a good team with a good coaching staff,” junior guard Frank Mason III said. “We have to go down there Saturday focused with a lot of energy and toughness to be prepared to play.”

In each of the Jayhawks' three road losses, they lost their composure in the second half. Oklahoma is one of the most explosive teams in the nation, and will almost certainly make runs. Kansas will have to survive those big runs, and hit back when possible. The team certainly has the firepower to do so.

Mason, along with junior Wayne Selden Jr. and sophomore Devonte’ Graham, is averaging more than 10 points per game. They are the third best three-point shooting team in the nation at 42 percent, led by junior Brannen Greene, who is shooting 56 percent from the three-point range.

But nobody is playing better for the Jayhawks than senior Perry Ellis. Over his last three games, Ellis has scored 63 points on 76 percent shooting, and he’s made 17 of his last 19 shots in the paint.

“Offensively, he’s been terrific,” Self said of Ellis. “He’s been very, very efficient and consistent. […] He’s been such a rock for us for four years.”

The Jayhawks unquestionably have the talent to knock off the Sooners, but that talent has yet to prove it can flourish in a tough environment. Saturday will be their stiffest test of the season, and a win would make amends for the road struggles in January.

“That will be a good environment against a great team,” Lucas said. “We’ll be ready.”

— Edited by Samantha Harms

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