Oral Roberts guard Warren Niles will be one of two things in Wednesday night's game against Oklahoma: a threat or a non-factor.
Senior Steven Pledger said it all depends on how the Sooners guard him.
Niles, a senior, is the Golden Eagles' hottest player. For starters, he's averaging 20.8 points per game. The Sooners, who play Oral Roberts at 7 p.m. in the Mabee Center, already know what they need to do to handle Niles: Let him play physical, and he'll make mistakes.
That's what Pledger and forward Romero Osby saw on film.
Here's the threatening side of Niles. In his second, third and fourth games of this season, he scored 29, 26 and 33 points, respectively. The Golden Eagles won all those games.
He also shoots 58.4 percent from the floor, 60.6 percent from beyond the arc and 88.2 percent at the line.
This isn't nearly the same Niles as last year. The then-junior went scoreless in ORU's loss in Norman last year, going 0-for-6 on field goals and 0-for-2 on 3-pointers.
“I remember him from last year,” Osby said. “I don't remember if he played as much last year and have as big of a role as this year, but he's a good player.”
Here's the nonthreatening side of Niles. When teams have covered him and pressured him, he's crumbled. In the first, fifth, and sixth games of this season, Niles scored 19, 15 and three points, respectively. Those games were all losses. In the Golden Eagles' last game against Belmont, Niles went 1-for-4, missed his only 3-point attempt and fouled out in 30 minutes of play.
Despite his struggles against Belmont, the Sooners will have to expect Niles to show up. His game against Oklahoma will be his 65th career start.
“He's a very good player,” Oklahoma coach Lon Kruger said. “He can score in a lot of different ways, so when you play a guy like that, the guy that's on him has got to work really hard, and the other guys have to be aware too to provide some help when necessary.
“ORU's a good ballclub and has other good players besides that, so you can't cheat too much.”
How will the Sooners approach Niles? Osby said it's all about respecting him.
“You never take anything like that lightly from a player,” Osby said. “Especially on his home floor. So we're just going to have to go out there and respect that he's a good player and challenge him.”
Oklahoma at Oral Roberts
*When: 7 p.m. Wednesday
*Where: Mabee Center, Tulsa
*Radio: KOKC 1520 AM
THREE THINGS TO KNOW
* Wednesday's game will be the 15th meeting between the Sooners and Golden Eagles. The Sooners have won the last 12 meetings.
* The Golden Eagles have five players who each average more minutes per game than any single Sooner.
* While Warren Niles dominates the floor, Damen Bell-Holter is averaging double-digit rebounds in four of ORU's first six games.