Oklahoma State has defeated ranked opponents 20 times in Travis Ford’s first seven seasons. The Cowboys have upset five teams ranked in the top five, and four of those have come inside Gallagher-Iba Arena.
Will second-ranked Oklahoma be the sixth upset victim Wednesday night?
The Cowboys, 9-6 overall and off to a 1-2 start in Big 12 play, host the Sooners, 13-1 and 2-1, at 8 p.m. at Gallagher-Iba Arena, where OSU has beaten a No. 1-ranked Kansas team (in 2010), No. 2-ranked Missouri (in 2012), No. 4 Kansas (2008), and No. 5 Kansas (2014).
But Ford knows that ending a five-game losing streak to Oklahoma and Big 12 Player of the Year favorite Buddy Hield is going to take a Herculean effort.
“When you’re talking about upsetting teams, you better have a grasp of who you are and what needs to be done. We have the second-ranked team in America coming in here … but the mentality you have to play with has to be off the chart,” said Ford.
“You have to fully grasp what’s going on around you, and play at a very high level, make very few mistakes. For our basketball team, [we have to] play the best basketball game we’ve played this far.”
The Cowboys are coming off back-to-back 17-point losses to 25th-ranked Baylor (79-62) and No. 17 West Virginia (77-60). They have struggled offensively, scoring an average of 70.1 points (244th nationally), while the Sooners have one of the most effective scoring teams in the nation, averaging 88.3 points (third nationally).
Senior Jeff Newberry leads the Cowboys with 11.9 points per game, while freshman point guard Jawun Evans (10.4) and junior Leyton Hammonds (10.1) are the other double-figure scorers for the Cowboys.
OU is led by Hield, a 6-4 senior who averages 26.6 points (second best in the nation). But head coach Lon Kruger has plenty of other weapons in Jordan Woodard (15.2), Isaiah Cousins (12.1) and Ryan Spangler (11.5 points and 10.5 rebounds).
“Every team is different. This team right here is probably different than any team I’ve every coached in 19 years. But we have some weapons,” Ford said. “Our weapons got to show up.
“We’ve proven on any given night that that we are one of the better defenses. You look at our numbers defensively, we’re pretty good in the league,” he said. “But you’re talking about a total different beast coming in here, something that’s averaging 93 points a game in league play.
“We have to be better at every facet, and fully grasp and understand, and accept, the challenge, and embrace that challenge. That’s the only way we can survive against one of the great teams in America,” Ford added.