Bedlam: Round 2

The Oklahoma State Cowboys have much at stake tonight. A loss to Oklahoma could pit them at a lower seed come tournament time. And, everyone knows that a bout between these two schools is never an easy thing to predict. Need proof? Jan. 13 is the only proof you need, champ.

When the Oklahoma State basketball team takes to the court against Oklahoma at 8 tonight in the second round of Bedlam, the Cowboys will be fighting to make up lost ground.

Losing to Baylor, 77-72, Saturday set OSU (19-4, 8-2 in Big 12) back a game in the Big 12. If the Cowboys could pull out a win in Norman against the Sooners (17-4, 8-2 in Big 12), their stock will increase in the conference. Kansas and Texas are currently ahead of OSU with 9-2 conference records.

The Pokes could also make themselves more favorable in the eyes of the NCAA Tournament selection committee.

OSU dropped a game similar to Baylor last season, when Kansas State beat the Cowboys 70-61. After the upset, OSU coaches told the team they must win a game they weren't supposed to win.
The Cowboys then won at Texas, 85-80.

"That's what we've talked about," said OSU associate coach Sean Sutton. "When you dropped a game that you're supposed to win, then you've got to go make it up against somebody that maybe you're not favored to win the game."

 With only a fraction of the regular season remaining, the Cowboys have to get to work soon.

"There are still six games left on the schedule. Obviously we've got to win all three at home," Sutton said. "We've got to win a couple of these road games if we want to have a shot at getting a high seed in the NCAA Tournament and having any sort of chance at finishing in the top two or three in the conference."

Losing to the Bears has served as a notice for the OSU players: Play better basketball.

"We're basically just using it as a wake-up call," said Victor Williams. "We know we haven't been playing good basketball up to that Baylor game, and it just came out and bit us.

"In order for us to win basketball games, you've got to play good basketball for forty minutes, and we haven't been doing that."

Though the team wasn't lucky in that they lost to Baylor, they are lucky in the timing of the loss. Getting over such a tough loss is easy when the next opponent is your archrival.

"I think that helps, when you've got such a big game in your next game," said Sutton. "It's a disappointing loss on Saturday night, and one of the toughest I have ever been a part of, but good teams put that behind you and you find a way to get it back somewhere down the road.

"Wednesday night is a great opportunity for us — to go in there and have a chance to beat Oklahoma for the second time this year and sweep the season series, which hasn't been done a great deal as of lately."

The Sooners have the nation's longest home-court winning streak at 34 games. As if trying to make up a game in the conference wasn't tough enough, winning a game at OU adds to the challenge and intensity.

"OU — they've got a big winning streak going on down there. They're playing great right now, so we're going to have to (go) in and play the same type of basketball we played when we beat them here," Sutton said.

"And it's going to be a defensive battle out there."

It was a defensive battle the last time the two foes played each other. The Cowboys held OU to 32.7 percent shooting. Sooners Hollis Price and Ebi Ere also had only six points each. At that time, both players averaged over 18 points a game.

After such a successful defensive outing, the Cowboy coaching staff is planning a similar strategy this time for the Sooners.

"I think three big keys — defensively — when you play against Oklahoma are: you can't give them three-point shots, (you've) got to keep them off the free-throw line and then you can't give them easy points in transition," said Sutton.

"Those three areas, from a defensive standpoint, will be highly emphasized again on Wednesday night."

In the last couple of weeks, the OSU inside play has left a lot to be desired. Though OU frontcourt play hasn't been stellar either, forwards Ivan McFarlin, Andre Williams and Jason Miller will be expected to step up against OU.

Kevin Bookout was the leading scorer for OU, with 14 points and 11 rebounds, while OSU's McFarlin had 11 points and 14 rebounds. In the last Bedlam battle, the rebound war ended with OU and OSU both getting 38 rebounds.

While the frontcourt will be a factor, Sutton said the guard match up will be where the game is won and lost.

"I think the strength of both teams is guard play," Sutton said. "Neither front line is explosive offensively, but I think both front lines are capable of rebounding (and) playing defense.

"Bookout had a good game, the first game. Ivan played well the second half, so I think there's some pivotal match ups on the frontline, but in my opinion, I think the game will be won on what happens on the perimeter — their guards against our guards.The first game, obviously we played better in the backcourt. Victor came up big. Tony Allen didn't have a great game, but scored in double figures. We held Price to six and Ere to six, so I think that will be another big key — how well we can defend their guards."

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