By Eric Peterson (Ames Daily Tribune)
Iowa State already has played in some of the toughest locations west of the Mississippi this season.
The next tour stop on the Cyclones' road show will be at Oklahoma State's Gallagher-Iba Arena, which may be the most intimidating of the bunch.
Thousands of crazed fans will be dressed in orange and black, screaming loud enough that it sounds like they are right in your ear.
The Cyclones play at OSU at 7 tonight.
"The crowd is on top of you," ISU guard Jake Sullivan said. "It's brutal. I still have nightmares about my freshman year there. It's a scary place to go play."
Sullivan is talking about an 88-80 overtime loss to the Cowboys two seasons ago in Stillwater. The game, the first played in the newly-reconstructed Gallagher-Iba Arena, was one of ISU's four regular-season losses that year.
The Cyclones (11-5, 1-4 Big 12) hope this trip can be a streak-buster. They have lost 11 straight games in Stillwater, going back to a 97-88 victory on March 2, 1988. A victory also would break an 11-game conference road losing streak.
It won't be easy against the ninth-ranked Cowboys (16-1, 5-0), who have the nation's longest active winning streak at 14 games. Coach Eddie Sutton, 9-0 lifetime against ISU in Stillwater, has his team playing as good as any in the Big 12.
"There is certainly nobody above Oklahoma State's level right now," ISU coach Larry Eustachy said. "It'll be our toughest game by far this year."
ISU got its first conference victory with a 71-61 victory over Nebraska Saturday, the only unranked opponent the Cyclones will face among their first six league games.
The Cyclones recovered from a slow start, outscoring the Huskers, 52-34, in the final 24 1/2 minutes. They shot 51.8 percent from the field and blocked a Big 12-record 17 shots.
The challenge will be to keep the momentum moving forward.
Sullivan also is wary of how his teammates will react with the monkey now off their backs.
"I told the guys this happened last year," he said. "We beat Missouri, and we got so excited that we didn't win our next eight games. We can't let that happen again. We've got our greatest challenge ahead."
Sullivan leads ISU in scoring and ranks fourth in the Big 12 at 18 points a game.
He followed up a season-low performance in a loss to Missouri with 23 points against Nebraska. Sullivan got loose off screens several times and looked for his shot whenever he found daylight.
"He'll make those shots when he's open," Eustachy said. "He worked harder to get open, and his teammates worked harder to free him, which we've been working on."
The junior is the only current Cyclone to play at Gallagher-Iba Arena.
The loss during the 2000-01 season was only his second career Big 12 game. Sullivan scored five points, had three turnovers and fouled out late in overtime. OSU's starting guards, Victor Williams and Maurice Baker, torched the Cyclone defense for a combined for 46 points.
"It was one of those dreaded games," Sullivan said.
Williams, now a senior, averages 14.2 points a game and still is lighting up defenses while providing his own. Oklahoma State leads the conference in field goal defense at 37.5 percent shooting.
Two Mondays ago, the Cowboys held the normally high-scoring Oklahoma Sooners to 46 points on 32.7 percent shooting, including a 2-for-14 night from all-Big 12 point guard Hollis Price.
"They get out and pressure the passing lanes and really get up into you," Vroman said. "We're really going to have to focus on being tough with the ball and just being tougher than them."
Related game links:
OSU official game release:
ISU official game release: