February 20, 2010

A Bear Market? Pokes host BU

Is today do or die time for Oklahoma State?

It very well could be, given what's ahead on the schedule for the Cowboys.

Aside from the season-ending game against Nebraska, there doesn't look to be any easy games the rest of the way. That includes today's game against No. 22 Baylor, which is set for a 12:45 p.m. Central Time tip-off. The game will be televised by the Big 12 Network affiliate in your area, if any (KOCB-34 in Oklahoma City and Stillwater; KQCW-19 in northeast Oklahoma).

With games against Kansas and Texas coming up, defending the white maple against the Bears (20-5 overall, 7-4 Big 12) is paramount. BU got the better of OSU in the first meeting this season, with the Bears winning 83-70 on Jan. 16 in Waco. The Pokes (18-7, 6-5) actually enjoyed a 40-39 lead at halftime and the score was tied at 53 in the second half, but a 13-2 run put the Bears out in front and they didn't look back after that. BU enjoyed nice production from several players, including LaceDarius Dunn (25 points), Anthony Jones (16), Ekpe Udoh (13) and Quincy Acy (12).

"Baylor got great production out of pretty much every player that played," said Travis Ford after the loss. "We've got to get more consistent throughout the game out of our all of our players. We're just not getting consistent effort to help our team be where it needs to be. Baylor did that."

And the Bears will most assuredly be looking to pick up a nice road win in Stillwater. They've won three straight and four of their past five games, with a 78-71 loss at Texas A&M on Feb. 6 being the only cut they've experienced in nearly a month. Dunn leads the way for gang green, averaging 19.1 points per game. Tweety Carter averages 15.9 ppg, though he only put up nine points against OSU the first time around. He also averages 6.3 assists per game. Udoh has performed very well for BU this year, as the former Michigan Wolverine and Edmond Santa Fe player currently puts up 13.5 ppg and 10.3 rebounds per game.

As said above, this is an important game for OSU. While it's likely close, the Cowboys are looking like an NCAA Tournament team at the moment. Getting a win over a Baylor squad currently listed as No. 13 in the RPI by RealTimeRPI.com would likely send the Cowboys to near-lock status. That's important, as OSU travels to Texas (Weds.), hosts Kansas (Feb. 27) and hits the road to Texas A&M (Mar. 3) before closing out the season at home against Nebraska (Mar. 6). It's hard to see OSU beating UT in Austin, while KU will be in Stillwater will be tough. The Pokes did beat the Jayhawks inside Gallagher-Iba Arena two years ago, but it would not be an easy game to win. As for the Aggies, OSU picked up a nice win over them in January, but College Station isn't an easy trip anymore.

If OSU finds a way to win today, they would go to 7-5 in the league. That's the good news. The bad news is a potential three-game losing streak after today, meaning OSU would have to beat the Cornhuskers in Stillwater to get to 8-8 in the Big 12. Getting to that mark should get OSU in (with a win or two in the Big 12 Tournament just to make sure), but it could be dicey. But, if OSU wins today and then beats one of the next three opponents, the Cowboys will definitely dance, as that would either mean a big road win (or two) or knocking off one of the top teams in the nation.

But a loss today makes the NCAA road much tougher. It would put a lot of pressure on OSU to post an upset to regain ground. While that could be possible, it would just be hard to expect.

That brings us back to why this game is so big. Beat Baylor and it would seem that Ford will have his squad back in the Big Dance for the second straight year. The good news is OSU largely controls its own destiny and is at home today taking on a team that can sometimes play a little too loose and take chances when they might not need to. If BU does that and OSU can capitalize, the Cowboys could be in great shape for posting a win.

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