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February 19, 2013I'll go ahead and start this with the understatement of the year.
Wednesday's game against the Kansas Jayhawks is huge for Oklahoma State.
A win would knock KU down to second-place in the conference standings, and they wouldn't have a shot to get back to the top spot by their own doing.
On the flip side, a win would keep the Pokes' claim to first place alive and well, and if all goes to plan, would set up a monster showdown with Kansas State at the end of the season for the tie-breaker in Gallagher-Iba Arena.
The Cowboys have already beat them once, an 85-80 victory that shocked the Phog Allen Fieldhouse crowd and stunned the Jayhawks enough to send them into a three-game tailspin and allow both OSU and Kansas State back into the conference championship running.
But how do the Cowboys repeat the success they found in Lawrence at the beginning of the month? Honestly, it's simpler than you'd think, but it's also one of those "Easier said than done" things.
Three simple steps.
Replace Markel Brown's scoring
Brown was responsible for pulling the trigger on the stun gun last time around, as he dropped 22 points in the first half, including an incredible 5/7 three-point shooting performance. Is that possible again for Brown? Absolutely, positively. But you can't expect it from him again.
That being said, you have to look in other places. Le'Bryan Nash is coming off of a monster 26-point game against the Sooners on Saturday. If he can make a solid contribution with Phil Forte, it will tremendously help OSU. After all, you'll probably need a few more points than usual against a solid KU team.
Rotate the defenses
This was huge for the Pokes in Lawrence, but towards the end of the game they slowed it down and allowed the Jayhawks to get back into the mix. If they can keep KU on their toes and keep throwing different looks on them, it will keep the visitors on their heels just like it did in the first game, and allow the Cowboys more time to build some kind of a lead.
Control Ben McLemore
Like I said, this is an "easier said than done" thing, but this is possible. McLemore had 23 points last time, but I didn't ever label his performance as a Cowboy-killer. He was kept off-balance at times, and that's what gave OSU the win at the end of the day.
But why is it so important to focus on just McLemore? The redshirt-freshman was the only player in the first game to score more than 12 points, and one of just three players to break double-digits. The offense starts and finishes with him, as their second-leading scorer behind him is defensive post presence Jeff Withey. If the Cowboys slow him down with looks from Brown and Smart, then the day will be a lot easier.
Also, don't rule out Brian Williams. He's recovering from that wrist injury, but he got big time minutes against the Sooners on Saturday, and has gotten more and more playing time each game since his return. He didn't play against Kansas the last time around, and his lockdown defense is somewhat of a wild-card that Ford can throw at McLemore.
Kansas and Oklahoma State are scheduled to tip at 8 p.m. on Wednesday night in Gallagher-Iba Arena. It will be televised on ESPN2.