February 23, 2008

Big Saturday for OSU hoops

Oklahoma State is used to big games in the sport of basketball.

But how about two in the same day?

It'll definitely be a Big Saturday for OSU, as both the Cowboys and Cowgirls play in big games against key opponents. For the men, they'll be at home squaring off against Kansas. The ladies will venture south to Norman to take on the Oklahoma Sooners.

There's a lot at stake for both teams, so let's take a look at what both the Cowboys and Cowgirls are going up against today.

BEDLAM PART II
The game was likely one of the biggest in the history of the Cowgirl program. Coming into the first installment of Bedlam for 2007-08 with only one loss, OSU faced a team in the Sooners it hadn't beaten in years. Fans in orange believed that this would be the time for the Cowgirls to finally break that jinx. And they backed up that faith, filling up Gallagher-Iba Arena to the point that it looked like several hundred fans were left standing around the concourse, suggesting that more than 13,611 were in the building. Those fans were treated to a thrashing of the Sooners, as Kurt Budke's crew ran around and around OU, posting an 82-63 upset in a game that could have ended with a bigger margin than what the final score indicated.

Exactly six weeks later, the two Bedlam foes meet again, this time in Norman. The game is set for a 1 p.m. inside the Lloyd Noble Center and will be televised on Fox Sports Net. OSU comes into the game ranked 16th nationally and is 21-4 (9-2 Big 12) on the year. The Sooners are ranked 10th and sport a 19-5 (9-3) mark. OSU comes into the game on the heels of a 71-66 win over Texas on Wednesday in Stillwater. That game followed the tough loss the Cowgirls suffered at home at the hands of Iowa State. That's been their only blemish in the last three weeks, however, as the Cowgirls are 5-1 over that span.

As for the Sooners, they're coming off a win as well, but have struggled the last couple of games. They defeated Kansas State in Manhattan, 68-65, on Wednesday but were drilled by Baylor in Waco this past Sunday, 79-59.

This should definitely be an interesting game. A sellout is expected and the Sooners will surely be looking for revenge (and don't call me Shirley!). But if the Sooners are to score a win over OSU, they'll have to figure out a way to contain Andrea Riley and limit the Cowgirls' ability to run the floor. OU can't keep up if it becomes a horse race again, as the team is built around Ashley Paris. If the Cowgirls are able to answer whatever counter the Sooners try to put out on the floor, they'll be on good shape. That's not to say this will be an easy game if that happens, however. The Sooners are very good at home and winning on the road is tougher at home. Even so, the Cowgirls have exceeded every expectation so far and nothing can be ruled out with this bunch.

ROCKIN' AND CHALKIN'
If Phog Allen was alive today, he'd likely be none too happy that an alum from the school Henry P. Iba coached at was running the program at Kansas - even if he has been successful there. Bill Self and his Jayhawks invade Gallagher-Iba Arena at 3 p.m. today in a nationally-televised contest on CBS.

While OSU (13-12, 4-7) has been down this season, they have played better in their past two outings. In the wins over Baylor and Texas A&M, the Pokes' defense seemed solid and the play of Byron Eaton was spectacular. Even so, it will take a nearly flawless performance for the Cowboys to beat the Jayhawks. All you need to do is look at their record on the season (24-2, 9-2) to understand just how well KU has been playing this year. They didn't lose their first game until Jan. 30, when Sunflower State rival Kansas State finally bested the Hawks in Bramlage Coliseum, 84-75. And the second loss was in a great game, with the Texas Longhorns edging out KU in Austin, 72-69, on Feb. 11.

But the Jayhawks have been able to cleanse that loss out of their system, thanks to a 69-45 win over Colorado in Lawrence last Saturday. Since then, they've had a week off - just like OSU - to rest and focus on the final stretch of the season. They've got a great lineup, with four players averaging over 12 points per game. Darrell Arthur leads the way with 13.8 ppg and Darnell Jackson follows him with 12.4 ppg. Mario Chalmers has proven to be proficient passing the ball this season, as he averages five assists a game with only 1.7 turnovers to go along with that. Jackson (6.7) and Arthur (6.0) lead the way on the boards, while Brandon Rush contributes 5.2 rebounds a game. Need anymore stats to back up just how good these guys are? Didn't think so.

This is definitely a tough situation for OSU. If KU comes into Orange Country and blows the Cowboys out, the tumultuous nature of this season likely comes back after the past two games. And not many people are expecting the Cowboys to win today, which is tough for any fan in orange to admit when the game will be on Mr. Iba's white maple floor.

However, that setup for the game might be exactly what is beneficial for the Pokes. No one is expecting OSU to win, so theoretically speaking, the Cowboys should be in a position to go out, hang loose and play hard without any pressure. If OSU somehow pulled off an upset, it would be a big win for Sean Sutton, who is looking for a late-season turnaround on a rough year.

So there you have it. Two big games for two OSU teams. Both games will be tough for the teams in orange, but there's no telling what will happen. But this much is certain: If both teams win, the victories today could totally change the course of their respective seasons. It should be an interesting day for OSU hoops.

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