It’s tough to top Bedlam, but a top-15 matchup might do the trick.
Following an emotional victory of against Bedlam rival University of Oklahoma, the Oklahoma State Cowboys welcome the Kansas Jayhawks to Stillwater in a battle for first place in the Big 12.
The last time these two teams met, Oklahoma State surprised the nation by beating KU in Lawrence, Kan., something OSU hadn’t done since Feb. 8, 1989.
The matchup everyone will have their eyes on will be OSU star freshman Marcus Smart versus KU’s red-shirt freshman sensation Ben McLemore. Both are finalists for the Wooden Award, given to the nation’s most outstanding player. Both are projected lottery picks in the NBA Draft.
After McLemore recorded 23 points, five rebounds, two blocks and an assist on the Cowboys earlier in the month, OSU coach Travis Ford knows he will have his hands full in dealing with McLemore the second time around.
“He makes it all (look) so easy,” Ford said of McLemore. “I think he is a special player.”
No. 9 Kansas (21-4, 9-3) was the second ranked team in the country at the time and lost two more following its surprise defeat at the hands of the Cowboys. It has since rebounded, beating No. 10 Kansas State, 83-62 and Texas, 73-47.
The No. 14 Cowboys (19-5, 9-3) are still riding high, winning their last seven games. During the streak, OSU has shown signs being a national title contender. They have blown out bad teams and found ways to beat good teams down the stretch, with two of the wins coming in overtime. OSU now finds itself in a three-way tie for first place in the Big 12 with KU and KSU.
From here on out, every game for OSU has conference championship implications, a stress Ford is more than willing to deal with after enduring a losing season last year.
“If you’re near the top right now, they all are big games,” Ford said. “It’s good to be a part of some big games.”
In addition to the overtime win, the storyline for OSU’s win versus OU was the crowd at Gallagher-Iba Arena. It was the first sell-out of the season that wasn’t aided by a T. Boone Pickens bailout. It did not disappoint.
Ford credited the crowd to helping lift his team’s energy throughout the game.
“It was exciting to see and exciting to hear,” Ford said. “It made a really, really big difference for us.”
A win for the Cowboys will put them in position to accomplish something considered unthinkable not too long ago: sweep Kansas and be in the driver’s seat toward a Big 12 championship.
“I think it’s time for us to win (the Big 12),” junior Markel Brown said. “We have been working hard and I think it’s time for it to pay off.”