February 27, 2007
Ending the skid?
It's turned into a sour season for Oklahoma State after a very nice first half start.
It's gotten to the point this year that not even winning at Gallagher-Iba Arena is a sure thing, as two overtime wins and two-straight losses can attest to. While OSU's home mark this season is 14-2, it hasn't quite been the same temple of doom for opponents as it has been in the past. Even so, the Pokes have clearly played better at home than on the road this year, up til back-to-back home losses to Missouri and Texas A&M. To avoid a three-game home losing streak for the first time since the 1986-87 season, the Pokes will have to step it up and defeat Kansas State.
And not to jinx things for OSU, but you know what team beat the Cowboys back in the era of Reagan to create that last three-game home skid? That's right, the Wildcats.
So with that bit of history hanging over things in addition to all the down points from this season, OSU could exorcize some demons by defeating Bob Huggins' crew tonight. The game is set to start at 8 p.m. and will be televised on the ESPN Plus package (KOCB-34 in Oklahoma City and Stillwater; KJRH-2 in northeastern Oklahoma).
Simply put, the Cowboys are staggering back home after a tough road loss to Texas Tech over the weekend. The 59-57 decision dropped the Pokes to 19-9 overall and 5-8 in the Big 12. In fact, KSU comes into tonight's game with one more win than OSU with a 20-9 mark and a 9-5 record in the Big 12, which has them at fourth in the standings. That means Huggybear's bunch is probably heading for a first-round bye at next week's Big 12 Tournament in Oklahoma City, while the Cowboys languish in eighth place. That didn't even seem like a possibility around New Year's.
While OSU is going to have to play on Thursday, there is still a shot for the Cowboys to move up some in the rankings. With a win tonight, the Cowboys would move into a tie for sixth in the league with the Tigers. Since Mizzou has the regular-season tiebreaker over OSU, that means the Cowboys would take control of the seventh seed. A loss would put the Pokes into a tie for ninth with Iowa State. So there's a lot on the line for the Pokes in terms of seeding placement. For folks planning on going, OSU finishing sixth would mean playing in the 8:20 p.m. game against the No. 11 seed. A seventh seed would mean being in the 6 p.m. game against the No. 10 seed. If OSU finished eighth or ninth, it would mean being stuck in the 11:30 a.m. game, which wouldn't be good for the Pokes or the tournament in general.
So really, at this point, OSU is playing for the best game time possible in OKC, which would be getting the sixth or seventh (or fifth, but that seems distant right now) seed. And to have a realistic shot at moving up, a win over the Wildcats is key.
KSU has had a very good year in Huggins' first season in the Flint Hills. Never before have the Wildcats been in position to earn a first-round bye at the Big 12 Tournament. All they have to do to earn that is beat either OSU tonight or Oklahoma in Manhattan on Saturday. They've gotten there with solid play from David Hoskins and Lance Harris. Hoskins is averaging 14.5 points per game and Harris is putting up 10.5 ppg. In their last outing against Colorado (an 87-71 win), Hoskins scored 21 points. Cartier Martin (16.2 ppg) scored 19 and Clent Stewart (6.3 ppg) netted 16 in the win over the Buffaloes.
After tonight, the Wildcats only have one more regular-season game, against the Sooners. OSU will have to close out its season with two-straight road contests at Baylor (Sat.) and at Nebraska (Mon.), which is a make-up game from earlier in the season when winter weather in OKC canceled the Pokes' flight to Lincoln.
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