Cowboys' Postseason Journey Begins?

The last time Oklahoma State took the court against Iowa State the Cowboys were reeling. They had just suffered a 25-point loss to Texas, the team's fourth loss in five games. But Travis Ford's Cowboys righted the ship with an 86-67 win over Iowa State that changed the complexion of the season. Now the Cowboys face the Cyclones in a first-round game of the Big 12 Tournament on Wednesday.

The Cowboys, 20-10 after winning six in a row before the season-ending loss to fourth-ranked Oklahoma, appear to be headed back to the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2005. No member of the OSU team has ever participated in an NCAA tourney game, including fourth-year seniors Byron Eaton and Terrel Harris.

As unlikely as it seems, another six-game winning streak – beginning with a win over Iowa State Wednesday at the Ford Center in Oklahoma City – would turn what appears at this time to be a successful season with a return to the NCAA tourney into a miracle season. For those not keeping track, a six-game winning streak at this point in the season would give the Cowboys the Big 12 tournament championship and two wins in the NCAA Tournament, meaning OSU would be playing in the Sweet 16.

Improbable? Yes, but you won't find anyone to argue with when you say the Cowboys are playing their best basketball of the season. Impossible? No. Remember many of the so-called experts had written the Cowboys off after that loss to Texas in early February saw their record drop to 14-9 overall and 3-6 in Big 12 play.

The Cowboys' late season run started against the Cyclones on Feb. 14 in Gallagher-Iba Arena with sophomore James Anderson recording the first double-double of his career with 27 points and 10 rebounds. Harris added 21 points, and Eaton contributed 16 points and 6 assists.

"It was even a close second half. A lot of people have talked the last couple of days about the point margin in the game (with Iowa State). It was close for the first 30 or 35 minutes in Stillwater," Ford said on Tuesday.

"We made a few baskets and did a good job defending for about a two- or three-minute stretch and that was all we did in that game pretty much. We are going to have to play much better, much better than we did that first game, and I'm sure Iowa State would say the same thing."

There's been no stopping Anderson – or the Cowboys, although their six-game winning streak came to an end with the 82-78 loss to No. 4 Oklahoma last Saturday – the past four weeks. Anderson has shown over the last seven games why he will one day join former Cowboys like Desmond Mason, Tony Allen and Joey Graham in the NBA.

The 6-foot-6 sophomore from Junction City, Ark., is averaging a team-best 18.9 points per game this season, and is scoring at a 24.3 points per game clip in the last seven games, including a career-best 37 against OU. In the last seven games, Anderson is shooting 43.5 percent from three-point range (20 of 46) and 83.6 percent from the free-throw line (46 of 55).

"The great thing about James is that he can do it in so many different ways," said Ford. "He used to be primarily a three-point shooter and he has expanded his game in a lot of ways. It has really helped our team, and hopefully he can help his teammates and they can feed off of him. Maybe he can set up some things for his teammates."

But it may be the play of the 6-5 Harris or 6-6 Marshall Moses that determines if Oklahoma States gets past Iowa State and gets a chance to play the fourth-ranked Sooners in Thursday's quarterfinals. That's because Harris and Moses will probably be given the task of slowing down Iowa State's 6-10 Craig Brackins, a first team All-Big 12 pick who averages 22.1 points and 9.4 rebounds.

Harris guarded Brackins for much of the first half in Stillwater, limiting him to just eight points as the Cowboys took a 36-34 halftime lead. Brackins did most of his damage in the second half, finishing with 27 points and nine rebounds, but the Cowboys outscored the Cyclones 50-33 in the second half to pull away for the win.

"We did something differently in the first game. I guarded Brackins and I usually guard a guard, so that is something we did differently in the first game against Iowa State," Harris said. "I don't know exactly what the game plan is this time, but I do believe it will be me guarding him some."

Eaton said, "I definitely think we'll do a better job on Brackins (over the first game). I think James (Anderson) will have his kind of game. He has been playing great this last month and a half. We will definitely get him the ball and we will do something different on Brackins and not let him get off. That is one of the keys that coach told us that if we don't let him go off we have a great chance of winning."

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