With three remaining regular season games, winning two will be a challenge for the Oklahoma State basketball team. The No. 16 Cowboys begin the March portion of the schedule when they travel to Allen Fieldhouse for a battle with the Big 12's first-place Kansas Jayhawks.
Taking the court at noon on Saturday, OSU will be the guest of KU's senior day. Playing the No. 7 team in the country on senior day is an honor Cowboy coach Eddie Sutton would rather do without.
"I don't think Roy will be too happy after the way they got thumped (Sunday)," Sutton said of KU's loss at Oklahoma a week ago. "Kansas — it's always tough to go to Allen Fieldhouse, but I'm getting tired of going up there when it's senior day.
"We've had to go up there more than anyone else, so I think that's what adds to this loss — the fact that now you've got to go to Kansas, and now you've got to go to Colorado — two of the toughest places where you can go this year."
The Cowboys (20-6, 9-4 in Big 12) lost their last game against Texas Tech at home on Monday. With the loss, the chances of OSU winning the conference are slim. After dropping the game against Tech and losing to Baylor at home, the Cowboys know they need a win.
Though the prospect of winning against the Jayhawks (21-6, 11-2 in Big 12) is a tough one, concentrating on the positives is a key the Cowboys are following.
"You've got to come in and do it," said Ivan McFarlin of winning against the Jayhawks. "We've just got to avoid everything that is in our mind — everything that is bothering us. You've just got to do it. I know that we've got three games, and Kansas is a hard one, Colorado will be a hard one and (Texas) A&M a hard one. We've just got to go out and do it.
"What's evident on all of the players' minds — we've just got to concentrate on basketball and hopefully work some miracles and we can come out and hopefully be back in the championship race."
For the Jayhawks, big offensive plays come in transition. Denying the KU offense and keeping the loud KU crowd out of the game will determine the course of the game for OSU.
"Well, that will be the biggest key in the ballgame — is transition defense," said OSU assistant coach James Dickey. "If we're going to have any chance to win, we certainly have got to minimize any easy baskets they get in transition.
"We're going to have to make sure we have the proper people back, as far as defensive balance is concerned. And then once we lose possession of the ball on a rebound or after we score, we've got to turn and run hard in transition defense."
In one of OSU's biggest wins of the season, a win against Texas, the Cowboys played solid defense for 40 minutes. Though OSU defensive pressure was prevalent all game, the Cowboys had many turnovers.
Playing defense and keeping turnovers to a minimum will be large factors for OSU on Saturday.
"Well, I think that's where it starts, because you've got to play defense," said Dickey. "And that's what gives you a chance to win night-in and night-out and to win on the road is you play solid defense.
"But, you cannot turn the ball over, make a lot of mistakes and give them second shots off the offensive glass or off turnovers. You just can't do that."
For the Cowboys to win, McFarlin said the entire team is going to have to step up production.
"It's just like (when) we played Texas, we all played together," said the junior forward. "I think that's going to be a big key Saturday. Players are just going to have to step up.
"I'm just saying that to myself, because I know I've got to step the most out of everybody. I've got to step up and bring my ‘A' game. I know I haven't been producing lately, and I've been hurting my team.
"Like I said, I'm putting pressure on myself, but I've got to undo that and just play the best that I can and hopefully the team will be behind me. They've always been behind me 100 percent, and they're going to be there with me, and I've just got to come out and produce and play the best I can play and hopefully come out with a victory."