OSU Makes First Trip To Tulsa Since 1996

Starting point guard Ray Penn and the other five Cowboy freshmen were just kindergartners the last time Oklahoma State's basketball team made a trip to Tulsa. Penn and his teammates are hoping OSU's 85-mile drive from Gallagher-Iba Arena to the Reynolds Center on Wednesday night turns out better than the Cowboys' trip on Nov. 22, 1996.

The Cowboys were defeated 72-54 by the Hurricane more than 13 years ago in a second-round Preseason NIT game played in front of a sold-out crowd at the Convention Center Arena and national television audience (ESPN).

Oklahoma State, 6-0, will face Tulsa, 5-1, on Wednesday before a sell-out crowd of more than 8,300 at the Reynolds Center in Tulsa. Tip-off is set for 7 p.m.

"There's no doubt this is the toughest challenge we've had (so far)," said Oklahoma State head coach Travis Ford. "This team, Tulsa, is one of the top 20 teams … Look at the experience they've got. They've just got so much more experience than we've got. They have guys who have been in their system for a long time.

"They have got size. They have got guards. They have got everything you could possibly want to win a conference championship and have a big year. They have got great players, great coaching, they have returning players, every thing as a coach you'd want to say this is our year … they have got it," Ford added.

Ford says the Cowboys will face a tough challenge in TU 7-footer Jerome Jordan and guard Ben Uzoh. Jordan is averaging a team-best 16.0 points and 8.7 rebounds, while Uzoh is averaging 15.5 points, 5.2 rebounds, and a team-best 3.8 assists.

"He looks like he's gotten bigger, better, stronger," Ford said of Jordan. "Uzoh looks likes he's much better. (Steven) Idlet is really good, and they've added some really strong pieces. I really like this Tulsa team.

"They're a great, great basketball team. I don't see a lot of weaknesses in their basketball team, and again as a coach you wouldn't expect to have a lot of weaknesses with this team that they've got returning," Ford said.

The second-year Cowboy head coach is pleased with his team's play as they are 6-0 after defeating Bradley and Utah in the Hoop TV Las Vegas Invitational this past weekend. James Anderson was selected as the tournament's Most Valuable Player after averaging 22.5 points in the two victories, while senior Obi Muonelo and Penn received all-tournament recognition.

"When we left here (to go to Las Vegas) we talked a lot about winning a championship. We tried to put something in front of them to see if they could accomplish it, and we told them the things they were going to need to do, and they went out there and did it," Ford said of winning the tournament title.

"The Utah game is the first game that I was happy for 40 minutes. We jumped on them and sustained it," the Cowboy head coach continued. "I was just happy with the attitude of the team, and the energy level and the focus level.

"We saw that in Vegas. We saw some of that in Vegas that we hadn't seen here at home at all. Everybody seems to be grasping their roles on this team, which is something we've been concerned about. Not just understanding it but accepting their role, and we saw some guys accepting their roles and just going out there and doing the things we're asking them to do.

"I think we're getting better but as I told our team, we don't need to get carried away by no stretch of the imagination. We are who we are. We're a very young basketball team that is very lucky and very fortunate to be 6-0 right now," Ford added.

Ford hopes to get a chance to play guard Nick Sidorakis for the first time this season against Tulsa. The junior from Jenks has been sidelined with a patellar tendon knee injury since the preseason.

"He'll help us," Ford said of the 6-4 guard. "He's still a ways away from where he was before he got hurt. If he can get back to playing the way he was before he was hurt he'll be a big help to our basketball team. But that's a big if. He's been out for a long time, and it's going to take him some time to get back in shape and playing form."

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