Bedlam III: Kansas City Style

STILLWATER – Obi Muonelo gets one more chance against Oklahoma. The Oklahoma State senior has played nine games against the Sooners during his college playing career and helped the Cowboys secure a first-round game with OU in the Big 12 Tournament next Wednesday in Kansas City. OSU defeated Nebraska 74-55 in the regular season finale Saturday to set up the first-round matchup with the Sooners.

Oklahoma State (21-9 overall and 9-7 in Big 12 play) secured the No. 7 seed in the Big 12 Tournament with Saturday's win over the Cornhuskers and will face 10th-seeded Oklahoma (13-17 overall and 4-12 in conference action) at 6 p.m. Wednesday at the Sprint Center.

If the Cowboys defeat the Sooners they will face second-seeded Kansas State (24-6 following Saturday night's loss to Iowa State) in a second-round game at 6 p.m. Thursday.

"I like it. You always want a chance to play OU again," said Muonelo, who had 13 points, 5 rebounds, 3 assists and 1 steal in his final game at Gallagher-Iba Arena. "It's in the Big 12 Tournament so it just raises up the stakes that much higher. It's a big-time game, and we're looking forward to it."

The Cowboys have won only three of nine games against the Sooners during Muonelo's four years at Oklahoma State. They split their two games with the Sooners this season with OSU winning 97-76 in Stillwater on Feb. 13, and losing 62-57 in overtime in Norman on Jan. 11.

Oklahoma State knew before the game even began that it would be the No. 7 seed in the Big 12 tourney, and the Cowboys knew they would be facing the Sooners following OU's loss to Texas A&M earlier Saturday.

But it was still an important game for the Cowboys, said junior Matt Pilgrim. The top item on the scouting report put together by the coaching staff was "Win this one for Obi."

"I think Obi will go down as one of the best players to play here (at Oklahoma State)," Cowboys head coach Travis Ford said. "He's done a lot for this basketball program, and he's handled himself with great class.

"Obi is going to be missed in a lot of ways. I'm going to miss his personality and being around him every day. He's fun to be around. He's extremely polite. He always has positive things to say, and everybody hears me yelling, ‘Obi! Obi!' all the time, but he always responds, ‘Yes sir, coach. I know.' It's fun to be around a kid that's coachable like that.

"As I've stated many times, nobody has worked harder than Obi Muonelo. I don't know if I've had any player that's worked as hard as he has outside of practice. And for that reason whatever he decides to do, go play basketball for a little while, or it could be for a long time, but whatever he decides to do after that he's going to be successful because he has a true understanding of work ethic and what it takes to try to be your best. He's a great young man," Ford added.

Muonelo played 30 minutes in his final game in front of the orange and black faithful, and said it's a day he'll remember. "It was an emotional game as far as looking at the crowd and seeing all the fans as a senior and being here for four years. I'll never forget these fans and just the environment of Gallagher-Iba Arena," said Muonelo.

Nebraska knew the Cowboy had some of the Big 12's best three-point shooters in Muonelo (fourth in the conference with 2.4 made per game), James Anderson (tied for fifth, 2.3) and Keiton Page (ninth, 2.1). So it came as a surprise when Nick Sidorakis came off the bench to spark the Cowboys in the first half.

Sidorakis, who was averaging just 1.9 points a game, had made just eight three-pointers in the Cowboys' first 29 games this season. The Cowboys were looking for a spark with the game tied 9-9 after five minutes, and the junior from Jenks provided it by hitting three consecutive treys to spark a 22-2 run during a 10-minute stretch of the first half.

The Cowboys trailed 9-8 after Nebraska's Lance Jeter drained a three-pointer with 16:15 on the clock, but Sidorakis would hit three treys, while Muonelo and Anderson hit one each during the run. By the time Sek Henry scored for the Cornhuskers with 5:10 left in the half it was a runaway with the Cowboys up 30-11.

Anderson, the junior who like Muonelo was probably playing in his last game at Gallagher-Iba Arena since he is expected to declare for the NBA Draft in June, led the Cowboys with 25 points. Muonelo added 13 and Sidorakis finished with a career-high 12.

Now the Cowboys can set their sights on the Big 12 Tournament and, more specifically, a third meeting with the Sooners on Wednesday night in Kansas City.

"We know each other very well, and when you get to the postseason there are different motivations and every team is going to have its own motivation. We have a lot of respect for OU, a lot of respect for Jeff Capel, and they're going to be ready to go, no question," Ford said.

One motivation for the Cowboys against the Sooners, and anyone else they face in Kansas City, is improving their seed for the NCAA Tournament.

"I think we can improve our NCAA Tournament seed," Ford said. "The more you win the better it gets, especially in our league … in what is going to be the best (postseason) tournament in America. I think all the (Big 12) teams that are going to be in the NCAA Tournament can improve their seeds one way or the other, except for Kansas which is going to be a No. 1 seed more than likely.

"It's going to be a battle in Kansas City. You can count on that," Ford added.

Obi Muonelo vs. the Sooners
Jan. 27, 2007 @ Stillwater (OSU, 66-61): Muonelo did not play because of an injury
Feb. 7, 2007 @ Norman (OU, 67-60): Muonelo did not play because of an injury
Jan. 28, 2008 @ Norman (OU, 64-61): Muonelo scored 25 points in 28 minutes
March 5, 2008 @ Stillwater (OU, 68-56): Muonelo scored 15 points
Jan. 26, 2009 @ Stillwater (OU, 89-81): Muonelo scored 15 points
March 7, 2009 @ Norman (OU, 82-78): Muonelo scored just 2 points in 11 minutes of play
March 12, 2009 @ Oklahoma City in Big 12 tourney (OSU, 71-70): Muonelo had 12 points and 7 rebounds to end the 5-game losing streak to the Sooners
Jan. 11, 2010 @ Norman (OU, 62-57, OT): Muonelo scored just 3 points on 1-of-12 shooting
Feb. 13, 2010 @ Stillwater (OSU, 97-76): Muonelo had 17 points and 7 rebounds

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